November 11, 2015
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo, Senator Larkin and Assemblymember Paulin Agree to Advance Legislation to Expand Military Pension Credit Program

TOP Governor Cuomo, Senator Larkin and...

Governor also Signs Two Additional Bills on Behalf of New York State Veterans

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and two legislative bill sponsors, Senator William Larkin and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, today agreed to advance legislation during the next State budget to provide up to three years of additional public pension credit for an expanded pool of eligible state and local employees who served in the military. Governor Cuomo also signed legislation today to provide additional benefits to veterans throughout the State.

“Our Veterans exemplify dedication, patriotism, and sacrifice – and we owe them a debt that can never be repaid. As we celebrate Veterans Day, we honor not only the extraordinary sacrifices they’ve made on our behalf, and their service here and abroad, but also the contributions they make to our communities once they return to private life,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York is one community and one family. Together we hope and pray for the safe return of our military men and women serving around the world. Above all, we remember those who have paid the ultimate price to protect our freedom and security. To our Veterans and military families, on behalf of all New Yorkers, thank you.”

 

Veteran Pension Credit Legislation

The agreement between the Governor and the legislative bill sponsors will amend existing law to expand the scope of veterans who can receive pension credits for military service. 

Current law allows active members of the New York State public retirement systems to purchase service credit for up to three years of military service if the member was honorably discharged, has five years of existing public pension credit, and served during World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam Era; or received an Armed Forces, Navy or Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal in connection with service in Lebanon, Grenada, or Panama; or served during theatre of operations in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the airspace above these locations.

New legislation to be introduced will balance the needs of New York State’s deserving veterans with the State’s larger fiscal goals. The proposal will expand the pool of eligible veterans that were not previously covered by law and will also remove restrictions that prevented women from being eligible for the additional pension credit because of prior military policy that barred women from being deployed to a military conflict. The military ended its policy against women being deployed to combat in 2013.

The Governor and legislative sponsors plan to work over the next two months to refine the proposal for introduction in the next budget.

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said: "Today and everyday we have a responsibility to give something back to the veterans across our state who have sacrificed for and fought to preserve our freedoms. I salute Senator Larkin for his tremendous determination in protecting and honoring our veterans and for never letting us forget about this critical issue. The Senate will continue to work to build on legislation that improves their quality of life."

 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “Veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and I am pleased that we are taking steps to support them and ensure that we are meeting their needs. The Assembly is proud to stand with New York's veterans who have given so much and have earned our respect and gratitude. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and our colleagues in the Senate to give our veterans these important benefits they are entitled to.”

 

Senator William Larkin said: "I am pleased that Governor Cuomo has agreed to work to improve New York's service credit law during the upcoming budget negotiations. I look forward to continue working with my colleagues to ensure that all of New York State's veterans are treated equitably under the law."

 

Assemblymember Amy Paulin said: “I am thrilled that after a great deal of work by a great many people, Governor Cuomo has chosen to advance this important measure. Veterans who served our country deserve our ultimate respect and thanks, and the veterans who served in these conflicts have been unfairly excluded from purchasing pension credit for far too long. I am especially pleased that women veterans who have been disproportionately excluded, will finally be able to obtain the benefits they are entitled to.”

 

Mario Cilento, President of the AFL-CIO, said: "On Veterans Day, it's fitting that we honor those who served our country, not just in words, but in actions. We thank the governor for announcing he will pursue the veterans service credit in the budget, putting New York State on the path to recognizing those who sacrificed so much for all of us. The governor's plan validates the service of more of our veterans and for the first time creates a process to do the same for the women who proudly served, giving them equal recognition. We also thank Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Flanagan, Senator Larkin and Assemblywoman Paulin for their continued work on this important issue. While we can never show enough gratitude to our veterans who provided the ultimate public service, this plan will help to honor them with the deep respect and appreciation they so deserve."

 

Wayne Spence, President of the Public Employees Foundation, said: “We would like to thank the Governor for agreeing to re-address this very important issue in the upcoming budget.”

 

Danny Donohue, President of Civil Service Employees Association, said: "CSEA is proud to stand with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly in recognizing that the needs of Veterans must receive higher priority. They served our state and nation selflessly and deserve our respect and support."

 

John Samuelsen, President of the TWU Local 100, said: "TWU Local 100 will continue to take the lead on equality for all workers, especially those who make the ultimate sacrifice of keeping us safe by joining the military. We commend the Governor and the State Legislature for working on a pathway in the budget for all veterans - including everyone who served during conflicts as well as our sisters who were not eligible to serve in combat - to buy back military time for their pensions."

 

New Laws Expand Benefits to Veterans

Governor Cuomo also signed two bills that provide additional benefits to New York State’s veterans.

The first bill (A7229/S305) broadens the eligibility requirements for veterans to qualify for admission to the New York State Veterans' Nursing Home program. Eligible veterans will now include those who served in Bosnia and Herzegovina conflicts, veterans who were exposed to “radiation-risk activity” during their service in Japan during World War II, and veterans who served in the Persian Gulf conflict, including service in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, or Operation Inherent Resolve.

Senator Adriano Espaillat said: "We have a special responsibility to those who bravely served our nation. These men and women have put their lives on the line to protect ours and it's only right that they have access to all veterans services. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this into law as it ensures every veteran is given access to New York State Veteran's Nursing Homes."

 

Assemblymember Michael DenDekker said: "On this Veteran's Day I am thankful to Governor Cuomo for signing this bill which will allow service members who served in combat during conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, and Iraq to become eligible for the New York State Veteran's Nursing Home Program. What better way to remember our veterans today than to provide more veterans more services."

 

The second bill (S4521/A8085) authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation to waive the income eligibility requirements for veterans seeking a commercial food fishing license. Applicants are currently required to earn at least $15,000 per year for three consecutive years within the fishing industry in order to obtain a commercial food fishing license. This bill would waive that requirement for veterans who would have accomplished that goal but for their active military duty.

 

Senator Thomas D. Croci said: “Military service should never be an obstacle to employment. One of the best ways we can thank veterans for their service is to make sure there are abundant job opportunities available when they return to civilian life. We must continue to remove all obstacles in our laws and regulations that block veterans from pursuing their chosen careers. I’d like to thank the Governor for signing this bill into law.”

 

Assemblymember Michael Benedetto said: "Our veterans deserve to be treated fairly and in the barrier of fishing licenses many of them were being unfairly excluded from pursuing a profession they love. This bill will rectify that and I applaud the Governor Cuomo for signing this bill on this day when we recognize our veterans for their service."

 

These efforts are an extension of work already advanced by Governor Cuomo to ensure that New York is a national leader in providing care and benefits to veterans and military families. In 2014, the Legislature passed the Governor’s Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act, which established a six percent goal (double the federal government’s goal) for participation in State contracts by these businesses, in addition to other measures to support disabled veteran-owned companies. The law also created the Division of Service-Disabled Veterans’ Business Development within the Office of General Services, which will oversee the program and certify eligible businesses. In last year’s budget, the Governor provided funding to allow Gold Star Parents in New York to qualify for the Gold Star Parent Annuity Program regardless of their annual household income and in 2013, the Governor signed legislation implementing a $74 million tax credit for private businesses hiring Post-9/11 Veterans to full-time positions of at least 35 hours per week for at least one year.

 

Last year, Governor Cuomo launched a ‘Strike Force’ partnership with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, making New York State a national leader in alleviating the federal government’s severe backlog of claims for federal Veterans’ benefits. This Strike Force embedded New York State employees focused exclusively on addressing claims pending for 125 days or more within the VA’s Regional Offices in New York City and Buffalo. Thanks in significant measure to the work of this Strike Force, the claims backlog at both of these federal offices is now dramatically reduced.

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