New Measures Strengthen Education and Employment Opportunities, Health and General Services, Voting Rights, Discharge Status Attainment, and Important Benefits
New Law Mandates Report on How Many Homeless Veterans Are Living in New York State
Cuomo: "Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our nation, and we must honor them and support them just as they supported us. This package of bills includes a wide range of protections and benefits to help ensure the veterans across our state get the services, educational and employment opportunities, and respect they have earned through their many sacrifices."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a package of bills to enhance support and bolster protections for New Yorkers who serve or have served in the armed forces. The package consists of 14 bills that protect the rights of active duty military members and veterans in a number of areas, including access to education, employment, voting, discharge status protection, and general services and benefits.
"Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our nation, and we must honor them and support them just as they supported us," Governor Cuomo said. "This package of bills includes a wide range of protections and benefits to help ensure the veterans across our state get the services, educational and employment opportunities, and respect they have earned through their many sacrifices."
Governor Cuomo's actions today build upon his longstanding commitment to the nearly 750,000 veterans living in New York State. Under his administration, New York has 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; launched the Justice for Heroes Initiative to fund legal clinics at law schools that provide assistance to 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. Governor Cuomo's efforts have made New York the most veteran-friendly state in America.
Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our nation, and we must honor them and support them just as they supported us.
The 14 bills signed today are listed below by category.
S.1660A / A.4654A Enacts Program for Veterans to Receive High School Diplomas
Currently, the State Education Department has a program called Operation Recognition, which allows New York State veterans who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans and who joined military service prior to graduating from high school to be awarded high school diplomas. This bill would extend that program to all New York State veterans, including those who deployed in Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
S.3300 / A.6297 Requires Employers to Prominently Indicate if a Work Opportunity Is Set Aside for Disabled Veterans
Section 55-c of the Civil Service Law authorizes 500 positions be set aside for disables veterans. However, currently employers are not required to publicly post whether positions are 55-c eligible. This bill requires employers to prominently display in their job postings that a job is 55-c eligible so that qualifying veteran applicants know of the opportunities available to them.
S.6474 / A.8282 Adds an Additional Year of Service Credit an Applicant Can Use to Deduct from Their Age When Applying for Certain Public Service Positions
This bill allows for a veteran to deduct up to seven years of military service from their age in order to qualify to sit for placement exams for certain public service positions, such as in the NYPD or FDNY. Currently, one must be 35 or younger in order to take the test, and applicants can deduct up to six years of military service from their age to qualify. The measure allows someone to deduct more time in service to recognize that they will be better prepared to serve in these important positions.
Health and General Services
S.4049A / A.5660 Mandates a Report to Determine How Many Homeless Veterans Are Living in New York State
This bill mandates a report to be completed by the New York State Division of Veterans' Services, the Office of Temporary and Disability Service, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Children and Family Services to determine the number of homeless persons in New York State who are veterans. The study would gather information on the number of homeless veterans living in the state, including how many of them have children, so advocates and policy makers can better develop solutions to address this problem.
S.5285A / A.1093B Allows More Veterans to Have Paid Leave for Health Reasons
Under current law, State employees who are veterans may get additional paid leave from their work to receive health-related services without loss of pay. This bill allows municipalities to offer their veteran employees the same opportunity, reflecting policy in place for veterans who are employed by the State.
S.4477A / A.6792A Requires the New York State Division of Veterans' Services Mobile App Be More Easily Accessible
The mobile application known as the New York State Veterans' App has been helpful to veterans across New York by providing a multitude of material on federal and state veterans benefits, programs and services. The app has not always been easily accessible or promoted by the Division of Veterans' Services. This bill requires the Division of Veterans' Services to easily direct veterans to the app through its website.
S.5991 / A.7594 Updates the Duties of the Women Veterans Coordinator at the New York State Division of Veterans' Services
This bill updates the duties of the women veterans coordinator within the New York State Division of Veterans' Services to ensure that the coordinator more effectively addresses the unique needs and challenges faced by the State's women veterans population.
S.2377 / A.1804 Requires State Agencies to Document Important Information Pertaining to the Lives of Veterans
This bill requires the New York State Departments of Health and Corrections and Community Supervision to collect certain information pertaining to the veteran populations they service.
S.5184 / A.7293 Makes Military Voting Provisions Available for School District Elections
Current law allows those who are serving in the military to register as military voters in New York State and to receive an absentee ballot for all federal, state, and local elections. Unfortunately, such provisions do not extend to ballots for school district elections; this bill makes military voting available for all school district elections for which absentee ballots are already authorized.
S.6467 / A.8095A Requires Division of Veterans' Services to Maintain a Discharge Upgrade Advisory Board Program
This bill directs the Division of Veterans' Services to maintain a Discharge Upgrade Advisory Board Program. Under the program, Division staff would review the evidence submitted by veterans seeking to appeal their discharge status and issue written, non-binding advisory options to assist veterans during the United States Armed Forces' appeals processes.
S.6527 / A.8096 Requires Local Veterans Service Agencies to Assist with the Completion of the Discharge Upgrade Application
Local Veterans Service Agencies provide valuable assistance to veterans located within their jurisdiction, and this bill requires these agencies to assist veterans in the process of submitting an application for a discharge upgrade.
Taxes and Other Fees
S.1681 / A.7289 Extends the Real Property Tax Exemption to Active Members of the Armed Forces
Currently only seriously disabled veterans, not active members of the armed forces, are eligible for a real property tax exemption when they must modify their homes to accommodate a service-related disability. This bill ends this discrepancy and extends the tax exemption to seriously injured active members who stay in service despite their disability, so they can take full advantage of it when making modifications to their property.
S.6260 / A.7234 and S.6306 / A.8109 Authorize Specified Counties to Waive Fees for the Construction and Improvement of Veterans' Organizations
Veterans' organizations throughout New York play an important role in ensuring that veterans can experience a sense of community. These organizations have been required to pay certain fees when building or making capital improvements to their facilities, and the organizations have been placed in a position of having to increase dues and potentially discourage veterans from participating. S.6260 / A.7234 authorizes Nassau and Suffolk counties to waive for veterans' organizations certain fees for construction of and capital improvements. S.6306 / A.8109 authorizes Washington and Saratoga counties to do the same.
Senator John E. Brooks, Chairman of Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, said, "As the Chairman of the NYS Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs, I applaud Governor Cuomo's actions today in signing these bills and providing the veterans of New York with even more tools and further access to succeed in their careers and life pursuits. In this way, the brave deeds of all who have served our country in uniform will be honored by our collective deeds in providing for their better health, opportunity, and happiness, even as we strive to do more."
Assembly Member Didi Barrett, Chair, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said, "As Chair of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I am proud to play a role in improving our state's approach to veterans services. The legislation signed today addressing employment opportunities, property taxes, and discharge upgrades will make a positive difference in the lives of New York's veterans. I thank the Governor for supporting our shared commitment to our military families by signing this legislation."
Senator Andrew Gounardes said, "Any person who puts their life on the line for our country deserves our unending gratitude and respect. With the passage of this bill, we are helping selfless people who have the desire to enter into public service as firefighters after already serving our nation in the military. This is the right thing to do, and I'm glad this commonsense change will be made."
Senator Brad Hoylman said, "According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 20 percent of all military veterans experience PTSD. After serving our country honorably, all veterans experiencing mental health issues or brain injuries deserve every resource New York State can provide. This new law makes common-sense improvements to the Veterans Health Care Information Program and DOCCS' data collection services, so our state can better serve those who have served us all. As I join my fellow New Yorkers in observance of Veterans Day, I'm grateful to Assembly Member Lavine, Veterans Committee Chair Brooks and Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for their work to pass this vital legislation and to Governor Cuomo for signing it into law."
Senator Anna M. Kaplan said, "Our nation and our state owe a significant debt of gratitude to the men and women who courageously defend our freedoms in the armed forces. I'm proud to have sponsored bills that support our veterans and make their lives a little bit easier, and I'm grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing them into law."
Senator Betty Little said, "Our veteran organizations do so much good for their members and for our communities. This new law, that I was pleased to sponsor, is a modest measure to express gratitude by helping make the cost of capital improvements a little more affordable."
Senator Rachel May said, "On this Veteran's Day, New York affirms its commitment to supporting our veterans and military families. This includes making sure that they have full access to the many services available to them. This bill provides veterans eligible for discharge upgrades with support through an often cumbersome application process, which will help our vets gain access to many benefits them and their families. I want to thank Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato for bringing this bill forward and Governor Cuomo for his support for this important legislation."
Senator Shelley B. Mayer said, "This new law ensures members of the military and their family members receive absentee ballots for school board, budget and library board elections and can participate fully in our most local of elections. Before this law, people serving in the military could register to receive absentee ballots for federal, state, and local elections but not school elections. This new law ensures members of our military and their families, who are making tremendous sacrifices to protect our rights and freedoms, are able to exercise one of the most fundamental rights - the right to vote. Thank you to Assembly Member Thiele, my colleagues, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, for working to ensure everyone who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to do so."
Senator Kevin Parker said, "It is our obligation to make sure that we are well informed on how many of our veterans here in New York struggle with homelessness, so that we are well equipped to do all we can do to address this growing problem. I applaud the Governor and my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate for throwing their support behind a thorough study that will document this important information."
Senator James Skoufis said, "Today and every day, we thank those who have protected the rights and liberties of every American. I'm proud and grateful that on Veterans Day this year, the Governor signed two of our bills that assist our neighbors who selflessly served. These new laws - providing tax relief to active, disabled members of the armed forces as well as expanding educational opportunities through the Operation Recognition program - are a demonstration of our unwavering commitment to New York's veterans."
Assembly Member Peter Abbate said, "America's veterans deserve the best when they come home, and here in New York, we are doing everything possible to make it easier for them to join the workforce. While some public service work opportunities put an age limit on eligible applicants, veterans deserve a reasonable accommodation, since many of them were serving our country during the time that they would have been eligible for these opportunities. I am happy to see the age accommodation expand for many of these opportunities to allow veterans to deduct up to seven years of their military service from the qualifying age, and I applaud Governor Cuomo for being a fervent champion for New York's veterans."
Assembly Member Pamela Hunter said, "Creating a role that specifically assesses and addresses the unique needs of women veterans within the Division of Veteran Services ensures that all of our veterans are receiving the consideration and resources they deserve. I am proud to have sponsored the legislation creating the Women Veterans Coordinator position within the Division and look forward to the increased services and opportunities our many women veterans will have as a result."
Assembly Member Charles Lavine said, "As a continued step in reinforcing the well-being of our Veterans and their families, the Veterans Health Care Information Program, will make accessible the health-related information of our Veterans to their children. Veterans children will now be able to receive better health care and more precise targeted treatment due to the improved record keeping system in corrections and community supervision facilities. I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law and for allowing countless men and women the opportunity to give back to their own families through improved healthcare and a better quality of life."
Assembly Member Amy Paulin, said, "After fighting for our freedom, when our brave men and women return home to New York, we must do everything we can so that they succeed in civilian life. Often our veterans are dealing with physical and mental health issues. Granting paid leave from work to deal with those issues is common sense. I commend my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate for passing my bill ensuring that the existing policy for paid leave for veterans working in state government be extended to veterans working for municipalities across our state. Thank you Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation."
Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato said, "As state and federal governments move to streamline services so we can improve quality of service for those who have sacrificed so much, I am proud to make this modest, but important contribution. I appreciate Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law, and of course all of my Assembly colleagues especially Assembly Member Didi Barrett, Chair of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, for her guidance and support on this legislation. I look forward to continuing to make those who have served a high priority throughout my tenure in Albany."
Assembly Member Nily Rozic said, "It is our responsibility to ensure that New York's veterans have full access to the educational opportunities and social services they need regardless of when they served. We should honor their service while also providing a pathway towards economic self-sufficiency. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for signing a legislative package that enacts solutions to best assist all those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country."
Assembly Member Steve Stern said, "Too often, our veterans are not aware of the services that are available to them and their families. It is unacceptable that they should face barriers in obtaining help. It is critical that we enable those who sacrificed so much to protect our great nation and our freedoms to find the services that they need. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law to ensure that critical information is just a click away."
Assembly Member Fred Thiele said, "The members of our military and their families make incredible sacrifices through their service to protect all of the freedoms we enjoy, and it is our job to ensure they are able to fully enjoy those rights themselves. Voting is not only the right of every American but also a hallmark of our values and our democracy. By extending military voting to school district elections, we are making certain that members of our military are afforded every opportunity to have their voices heard to help determine the direction of their communities. Further, our veterans deserve to experience a sense of community and camaraderie following their courageous service to our nation. Organizations that provide this to our veterans should never be put in a position of having to increase dues, and potentially discourage some veterans from participating, in order to facilitate building construction and improvement. I am honored to have been a part of this successful effort to support the deserving members of our military, their families, and their admirable service to our country."
Assembly Member Carrie Woerner said, "Veterans organizations foster a spirit of camaraderie and community amongst the brave men and women who served our country, and our veterans' posts provide a welcoming space for them to congregate. This legislation aims to remove a financial burden on these organizations by permitting our counties to waive fees associated with capital improvements on veterans' posts. This is just one small way that we can honor and support those who served, and I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law this Veterans Day."