Veterans Day is a time to recognize the sacrifice of our service men and women and renew our commitment to getting them the support they deserve. My father served in World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps, so this day is especially significant for me and my family. Veterans face many obstacles as they strive to re-enter civilian life and the workforce, often while coping with the physical and psychological repercussions of their service.
Home to nearly 900,000 veterans, New York State has a responsibility to care for service members who have returned home. Unfortunately, statistics show that about half of all post-9/11 service members will face some period of unemployment upon their return. In addition, veterans make up 12 percent of the adult homeless population in our country, including a growing number of women with children.
This year, the Assembly unanimously passed legislation that I was a sponsor of (A.434) that would direct key state agencies to gather information on the state’s homeless veterans and their children so we may better support them. Unfortunately, the State Senate did not pass this bill before session ended. In addition, we passed a new law creating the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund, to which New Yorkers can easily contribute by simply checking a box on their income tax forms.
In the fight against veteran homelessness, effective job placement is a powerful resource. That’s why the Assembly has continually passed laws to help our veterans find meaningful and well-paid work, including tax credits for small businesses that hire veterans, a bill I supported as part of the budget; and the Veterans Employment Act, which I co-sponsored, to help give veterans temporary staffing jobs in state agencies.
Meanwhile, the federal GI bill continues to help veterans earn a college degree. Home loan programs and property tax exemptions for veterans also help them fulfill the American dream of homeownership. Once veterans have transitioned back into civilian life, we must continue to say thank you. That’s why more than 12,000 businesses statewide offer discounts for active military personnel and veterans; you can find them by visiting militaryandveteransdiscounts.com/location/new-york.html
I encourage you to contact your local AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion or Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) chapters for more information about what you can do to honor our local veterans. You can learn more about veterans’ benefits contact the state’s Division of Veterans Affairs at 888-838-7697 or visit www.veterans.ny.gov.