Published in
The Empire

Veterans Day sparks veteran-focused legislative actions

Elected officials at every level in the state are pushing for better protections and opportunities for military veterans--recent and those who served awhile ago.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is launching a program to help returning veterans find worker easier.

Military veterans are highly trained, often in specialized skills that are in great demand in the public and private sectors. However, veterans' training is often unacknowledged when they pursue licenses, degrees, and certifications in the civilian workforce. Through the Governor's "Experience Counts" campaign, state agencies will now identify ways that New York can better recognize the skills and training that veterans possess.

"As our veterans return home to New York, we must do everything within our power to ease their transition back into civilian life," Governor Cuomo said. "That is precisely what the 'Experience Counts' campaign and the newly revitalized Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families have been set up to accomplish. With this campaign, we can give veterans the credit they deserve for their military training and ensure that the state government works efficiently and effectively on their behalf."

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a "guide to provide veterans and active duty military personnel information related to benefits, consumer protections and other legal issues."

“To honor the brave men and women who selflessly serve our country, we must do everything we can to ensure military families are protected here at home,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “From foreclosure protection to educational benefits to employment issues, veterans and active duty military personnel deserve to know the rights and benefits to which they are entitled. My office will continue to fight for those who have fought for us.”

State Senator Tony Avella is introducing legislation to help veterans get preferential housing treatment.

Under the current law veterans who served in the Vietnam War are afforded specific eligibility into public housing projects at income levels slightly higher than the income levels set for the general public. Avella’s bill will extend those provisions to encompass veterans who have served or are serving in the armed forces from September 14, 2001 through December 31, 2014--reflecting the period from the Joint Resolution authorizing the use of force against those responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks.

“Today, just as we did in the Vietnam War Era, we are seeing more and more of our soldiers returning home having served our country through lengthy deployments in hostile theatres with nowhere to live,” stated Avella. “Making sure that each one of these heroes is ensured preference when applying for public housing is the least we can do to prevent them from finding themselves in difficult situations. We should feel obliged to look out for those who selflessly risked everything to ensure our safety.”

City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin is putting forth a resolution caling on the Congress to do more victims of sexual assault inside the military.

Thousands of women in uniform have been victims of sexual assault and harassment during their military service. But women suffering from this condition, known as military sexual trauma (MST), face serious barriers to receiving medical benefits. Council Member Lappin, Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, is calling on Congress to pass a federal law that would make treatment more accessible to these victims.

“Thousands of veterans are carrying invisible battle scars,” Lappin said. “We need to provide them with the help they need, so they can begin the healing process.”