Committee Will Oversee Site Selection and Create Action Plan
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the members of the committee that will oversee plans to create the first New York State Veterans Cemetery that will provide dignified burial options for the state's veterans and their eligible family members. The committee will be chaired by Ret. U.S. Army Colonel Jim McDonough, Director of the NYS Division of Veterans' Services, and oversee the site selection process for the State Veterans Cemetery, creating an action plan outlining ongoing governance, compliance and cemetery operations at the planned burial grounds.
"It is long past time for New York to have its first State Veterans Cemetery. This expert panel of leaders will create the blueprint for this important site of remembrance," Governor Cuomo said. "It is our obligation to ensure that the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect this great nation are honored with a dignified place to rest alongside their fellow service members in New York."
The full committee membership includes:
- Major General Raymond F. Shields, Jr., Adjutant General New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs
- RoAnn Destito, Commissioner, New York State Office of General Services
- Rossana Rosado, New York Secretary of State and Chair of the Cemetery Board of the Department of State
- Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
New York is one of only a few states nationwide that does not have a State Veterans Cemetery. More than 70 percent of New York State's approximately 681,000 veterans are over the age of 55, and many veterans and their families have advocated for years to have an appropriate state resting place to visit and honor their sacrifice. But an antiquated law required that the state must first set aside 15 years' worth of perpetual care costs prior to moving forward with the site selection process. On the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day and as part of his 2020 Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo introduced legislation amending the law to remove the onerous 15-year funding requirement and streamlining the process for establishing the creation of a state cemetery.
Director of New York State's Division of Veterans' Services Ret. Colonel Jim McDonough said, "The responsibilities associated with establishing the state's first-ever State Veterans Cemetery speak to the need to be collaborative not only across state government, but with our partners locally as well. We owe our veteran families nothing less than our best efforts to ensure that additional dignified burial options for New York's veterans become a reality this year. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and his commitment to ensuring that we continue to provide the utmost care for New York's veterans and their families."
Today's announcement builds upon Governor Cuomo's continued commitment to New York's veterans and their families. During his tenure, Governor Cuomo enacted the nation's largest fund for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, certifying over 600 businesses to date; convened the State's first-ever Summit on Veterans and Military Families; signed the Restoration of Honor Act, allowing New York State veterans with less than honorable discharges due to sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or certain mental health conditions to apply to have their eligibility for New York State veterans' benefits restored; launched the Justice for Heroes Initiative to fund legal clinics at law schools that assist veterans; provided funding for nonprofits that offer peer-to-peer support for veterans and their families; and waived the application fee for veterans taking Civil Service exams.
Additionally, Governor Cuomo has expanded access to the MERIT Scholarship and increased the Gold Star Parent Annuity to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice through their service. The state has also dedicated over $50 million to establishing supportive housing projects and other developments for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families throughout the state. Governor Cuomo's efforts have made New York the most veteran-friendly state in America.