Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new pilot program to help connect veterans in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities with benefits, programs, and services earned as a result of their military service. For the first time in its 70-year history, the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs will hire Veterans Benefits Advisors to exclusively assist Veterans in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, including the Veterans Homes operated by the New York State Department of Health and the State University of New York.
"Our veterans answered the call to serve our nation and we owe it to them to ensure they have access to the resources that they are rightfully able to obtain," said Governor Cuomo. "This new initiative will help ensure that when a new veteran patient enters a nursing home, they are better able have their needs addressed and their quality of life improved."
While the Division of Veteran's Affairs has over 40 accredited Veterans Benefits Advisors covering 70 offices across the state, this new pilot program will, for the first time, hire several new ones that will be dispatched directly to skilled nursing facilities and provide enhanced outreach to Veterans where they live. This provides a much-needed centralized point of contact for nursing home administrators when they encounter a Veteran or a Veteran's family member who needs assistance with applying for federal and state Veteran's benefits.
The Veterans Benefits Advisors, all of whom will obtain accreditation to represent Veterans and their family members before the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, will advocate free of charge for these veterans in claims and appeals for disability compensation, non-service-connected pension, and other benefits, programs, and services that can bring life-changing aid to a Veteran and their family. During the last calendar year alone, existing Veterans Benefits Advisors successfully obtained more than $75 million in new and recurring VA benefits for veterans and their family members throughout New York State.
New York State Division of Veteran's Affairs Executive Director Eric Hesse said, "We appreciate Governor Cuomo's new initiative to reach out to our Veterans in nursing homes across the State. Our goal in the DVA is to ensure no Veteran is left behind and this takes this and our 'Have you served?' campaign to the next level. We in New York State have an aging Veterans population and it is our responsibility to ensure they are all receiving the benefits, programs, and services they have earned."
The New York State Department of Health operates State Veterans Homes in the communities of Batavia, Montrose, Oxford, and St. Albans. SUNY operates a State Veterans Home on the campus of SUNY Stony Brook. Veterans with a VA disability compensation rating of 70 percent or higher receive skilled nursing care from these facilities free of charge. All other Veterans and their spouses can receive skilled nursing care from these homes at a cost significantly lower than the price of most private facilities, as long as the Veteran received an honorable discharge from the military and either entered military service from New York State or is a resident of New York State today.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "New York’s Veterans have risked everything to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. We have an obligation to make sure they are benefitting from the assistance, services, and programs that have been established for them."
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, "Since the Long Island State Veteran's Home opened its doors on SUNY's Stony Brook University campus in 1991, we have proudly provided medical care to thousands who served our country. Establishing a more seamless connection between veterans and the benefits he or she has earned is certain to help alleviate what can be a tremendous burden to veterans and their families."
In 2015, the Division conducted over 300 outreach events across New York — more than twice the number of outreach events that it conducted during the previous year. This year, the Division is on pace to conduct even more than last year, including its 11-11 Community Conversations across every region of the State. Each Community Conversation featured a town hall meeting facilitated by two or more members of the Division's executive staff in which members of the public posed questions and recommended ideas about improving services for Veterans, service members, and their families in New York. Some ideas proposed at these Community Conversations produced new initiatives that the Division and other state agencies implemented during the past calendar year, including communications-based improvements such as the New York State Veterans App.
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