Governor Andrew Cuomo marked Veterans Day 2019 by announcing the signing of a package of fourteen bills to expand benefits and programs for New York veterans and active service members.
Senator John Brooks, Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs, applauded the governor’s efforts to provide “the veterans of New York with even more tools and further access to succeed in their careers and life pursuits.” This includes allowing veterans of Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan to now be awarded high school diplomas if they joined the military before graduating and waiving application fees to CUNY and SUNY schools for veterans and their spouses.
Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, Didi Barrett, is “proud to play a role in improving our state’s approach to veterans services.” More vets will be able to translate military experience into job training as they can now deduct seven years from their age, up from six, to qualify to take age-restricted public employment placement exams, and employers are now required to more clearly announce public service jobs which are designated for disabled veterans; Civil Service Law requires five hundred such positions be set aside. Steps will also be taken to better assist the state’s homeless veteran population, to allow local public employees the same amount of paid health leave as state employees and to better address “the unique needs and challenges” of the state’s women veterans, among other benefits.
New York has a veteran population of almost 750,000.
Governor Cuomo also voiced his commitment to establishing a New York Veteran’s Cemetery. He plans to introduce legislation meant to “streamline” the process of securing federal funding for the project. New York is one of only four states nationwide that does not have a state veteran’s cemetery, though it has six national cemeteries and the Soldiers’ Lot at Albany Rural Cemetery. Cuomo said it would be “a permanent monument to these heroes who’ve made our freedom possible and provide their members–and people from across the state–a place to visit to honor their memories.” Retired U.S. Army Colonel and Director of the New York State Division of Veteran’s Services Jim McDonough said vets and their families “earned the honor of having a revered and sacred resting place. In death, as in life,” he continued,” they deserve nothing less than our highest esteem and everlasting tributes.”