By Assemblyman Will Barclay
During Veteran’s Day in November, we pause to honor our veterans and thank them for their many sacrifices.
I wanted to make you aware of some legislative changes that took place this year in our state affecting veterans and their families.
Last month New York chaptered a law that helps veterans identify themselves more easily. This law directs the Commission of Motor Vehicles to provide, at no additional cost, for a distinguishing mark on a driver’s license or non-driver identification card indicating that the holder is a veteran of the U.S. armed forces.
This law came about because it is sometimes difficult for veterans to provide proof when applying for veteran benefits such as health services, or discounts that businesses offer to veterans, for example. Previously, they were forced to provide multiple forms and often, don’t have these many forms readily available.
With this mark, if the veteran has their license, they are more easily able to receive a discount at a restaurant or through a service provider. I was pleased to support this during our last session. It passed unanimously in the Assembly.
Mental Health and Chemical-Dependency Services
Last month, the Governor signed a bill into law that directs the State Veterans’ Affairs commission to develop an interagency plan to address the needs of returning veterans. I was pleased to support this in the Assembly as well.
This law will ideally get services to veterans who are experiencing mental health or substance abuse problems without forcing them to visit multiple state agencies. This includes assistance with housing, employment, substance abuse, suicide prevention and mental health services.
Combat-related mental illness has been and still is a critical issue for American war veterans. More than 85,000 New Yorkers have participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraq Freedom or both since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the legislation.
According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, at least one in three Iraq veterans and one in nine Afghanistan veterans will face mental health issues like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Multiple tours have increased the stress of combat.
I am hopeful that with this new law, our state can better service the men and women who need help.
This legislation was created following testimony at a hearing with the Assembly Standing Committees on Veterans’ Affairs, Mental Health and Alcohol and Drugs. There is a need for such services beyond what the federal Division of Veterans Affairs can manage. Health providers have recognized this for some time. As this law becomes effective throughout the next year, hopefully our veterans will see there is more mental health and addiction services available throughout the state.
I am pleased to report that the new Veteran’s Employment Portal is live. This is a new addition to the Division of Veteran’s Affairs website thanks to legislation passed in the spring.
This offers a one-stop career priority service to veterans and their eligible spouses. As a military veteran, you will be served first by the next available staff member and given first priority for jobs and training for which you are eligible and qualified. Other services available include Career Counseling, Skills Assessment, Job Search Assistance, Resume Preparation, Information on Civil Service positions and referral to other agencies that provide services to veterans.
More information on any of these services can be found at the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs at http://www.veterans.ny.gov/
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.
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