Senate Passes Bills To Help Veterans And Military Members

Martin J. Golden

July 07, 2008


State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C, Brooklyn), a member of the State Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Military and Veteran Affairs, today announced that this week, he joined members of the New York State Senate in passing several bills to provide greater benefits and protections to New York’s military personnel. The legislation includes measures to provide better access to health and mental health services, employment opportunities, support for the families of New York’s service members, and ways to commemorate and honor those who serve our state and nation.

Senator Marty Golden stated "Our veterans and their families have made so many sacrifices for all of the citizens of New York State and of the United States of America. When these brave men and women return, it is our responsibility to provide them with the necessary tools to secure a strong foundation for their future. This legislation will give our veterans the resources they need to return to life as a civilian, by providing them with education and employment opportunities, as well as ensuring that our veterans are properly commemorated and honored."

Senator Golden continued, "New York State is home to about 1.2 million veterans. This package of legislation is for the men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and in over 130 foreign lands around the world and for those who have already served."

The legislation passed includes bills that would:

> allow members of the armed forces to take special military make up civil service exams (S.7792, Senator Leibell);

> authorize State and Municipal employees to be paid for up to 45 days of military deployment each year, up from 30 days (S.7830A, Senator Leibell);

> amend the domestic relations law to state that a parent’s military status shall not affect his or her parental rights during custody proceedings (S.5863, Senator DeFrancisco);

> add two members to the mental health services council -- one from the Division of Veterans Affairs and one from the Division of Military and Naval Affairs (S.7183A, Senator Morahan);

"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an immediate need to address the mental health concerns of current and future veterans. It is critical our military leaders have the capacity to accurately project the effects the costs of treating our veterans will have on government services," continued Senator Golden. "This legislation will add two highly qualified new members to the Mental Health Services Council who are in the best position to help assess and deal with the mental health needs of veterans, including those returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan."

> unify New York's dates for authorized action in Lebanon to match the federal government's start date for purposes of pension credit (S.7956, Senator Flanagan);

> establish the Veterans Memorial Preservation Act (S.7879-A, Senator Leibell); and

> extend the statue of limitations for actions involving exposure to Agent Orange for two years (S.7832, Senator Leibell).

The legislation passed today builds on the Senate’s ongoing efforts to provide assistance and benefits to New York’s veterans and active military members, including the innovative Patriot Plan which provided numerous benefits to our service men and women fighting the War on Terror.

The bills were sent to the Assembly.

In addition, the Senate has also passed legislation that would:

> prohibit courts from making determinations in child custody proceedings when a parent is activated, deployed, or temporarily assigned to military service (S.5860, Senator Rath);

> Authorize the use of State funds for the operation and maintenance of state veterans’ cemeteries (S.8010, Senator Leibell);

> exempt military personnel serving in a combat zone from income tax on compensation for their service (S.3574-A, Senator Lanza);

> provide a United States burial flag for veterans of the New York Guard (S.7515, Senator Saland); and

> allow the Defense Department 214 as proof of service for Cold War veterans applying for a real property tax exemption (S.6697, Senator Maziarz).

Veterans’ Programs in the State Budget

This year’s state budget included $4.5 million to provide tuition assistance for veterans enrolled in an approved graduate, undergraduate and vocational program. Veterans’ tuition assistance was increased from $2,000 per year to $4,350, allowing veterans to attend a SUNY or CUNY school tuition-free. If a veteran chooses to attend a private school, they will receive the equivalent towards their education costs.

Veterans enrolled in part-time studies will receive a pro-rated amount. In addition, the enacted budget expanded the eligibility for this program to cover all veterans who served in the Armed Forces in any hostilities since 1961.

The program is a Senate Majority initiative that originally passed unanimously in the Senate last year (S.6288, Senator Bruno).

The 2008-09 state budget includes $250,000 to train mental health providers in veteran-specific mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse issues. (S.6799-A, Senator Fuschillo, Passed Senate 5/12/08)

The budget also included $150,000 for the Canines for Veterans Program, to provide working support dogs to combat veterans who are injured in the line of duty, a program initiated by the Senate Majority.