Governor signs package of bills to enhance services for veterans in NY
Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo
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.
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.