A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Last week, New York state extended to all veterans who are members of the New York State retirement system the ability to purchase military service credit.
I am honored to have been one of the many members in the State Legislature who sponsored and supported the bill.
The new law will allow all honorably discharged veterans to buy back up to three years of their military service to credit their pensions for military service performed.
Prior to this change in the state’s Retirement and Social Security Law, New York had an arbitrary system where some veterans could take advantage of the buyback while others could not.
Effective immediately, the law includes all who have been honorably discharged rather than those who have served in certain military campaigns.
For example, prior to this change in the law, a veteran who served in the Vietnam War could purchase service credit, while a veteran who served in the conflicts in Afghanistan could not.
This new law abolishes these inequities.
Expanding the eligibility for military service credit to all honorably discharged veterans has been a priority of mine.
The previous law was unfair to many who had served.
Over the past several years, I have heard from a number of veterans who called my office to explain their concerns with the law.
Many had said they have served in conflict areas and it seemed unfair to them that they were excluded under the service credit rules.
Because the new law removes the combat requirements, women who were previously ineligible will qualify for the military buyback.
Women were only recently allowed in combat zones so many women have not been able to access this benefit due to the way the previous law was written.
The public and lawmakers have long since recognized the inequities of the law.
In fact, this bill passed through both houses nearly unanimously in both 2014 and 2015 but was vetoed by the Governor both years.
Thankfully advocates for this measure remained steadfast and demanded change.
Their hard work and determination paid off and the Governor signed this bill May 31.
The signing of this legislation comes on the heels of Memorial Day, as we paused to remember the sacrifices and service our veterans have provided to our great country.
Extending these benefits to all veterans is the least our state can do for veterans who have sacrificed so much so that we are able to enjoy our freedoms.
If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.