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Cuomo Signs Bills To Enhance Support For Veterans

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently 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,” 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.”

The 14 bills signed today are listed below by category.

EDUCATION

S.1660A/A.4654A enacts a 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. The new legislation extends that program to all New York state veterans, including those who deployed in Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

EMPLOYMENT

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 disabled veterans. However, currently employers are not required to publicly post whether positions are 55-c eligible. The legislation 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. The 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. The bill mandates a report to be completed by the 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 provides 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. The legislation 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. The 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.

VOTING

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. Such provisions did not extend to ballots for school district elections; the legislation makes military voting available for all school district elections for which absentee ballots are already authorized.

DISCHARGE STATUS

S.6467/A.8095A requires the Division of Veterans’ Services to maintain a Discharge Upgrade Advisory Board Program. The 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 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.

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