Stirpe: Let’s honor our veterans for their selfless sacrifices

Al Stirpe

The brave men and women who serve our country make incredible sacrifices to defend our freedoms. They experience situations that many of us can only imagine. Under the harshest of conditions, they are separated from friends and family to fight for our nation. For this and so much more, veterans deserve our recognition. This Veterans Day, I invite everyone to join me in honoring and thanking our servicemen and servicewomen for their patriotism, bravery and sacrifice.

New York State is home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country, with over 900,000 veterans, 72 percent of whom have served in combat.[1],[2] It’s our responsibility to help veterans reintegrate successfully into civilian life and to ensure they have access to all the tools and support they need. Too often, veterans struggle physically and psychologically because of their experiences.

One troubling issue is the high rate of homelessness among veterans. Having a safe, stable place to call home is something so many of us take for granted. An estimated 11 percent of America’s adult homeless population is veterans and many more are considered at risk of becoming homeless.[3]

I take this problem seriously, and several years ago, I voted to create the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund to help ensure more consistent, quality housing for veterans (Ch. 428 of 2014). I’ve also co-sponsored legislation that requires the state to perform a study on homelessness among veterans so we can get better, more accurate information for future policy-making (A.1646).

Additionally, a law I helped pass this year helps ensure that all eligible veterans receive the property tax exemptions they are due; until now, tax assessors often overlooked certain veterans for this cost-saving benefit (Ch. 286 of 2017).

Many veterans also face challenges to finding employment after their service. New York State offers incentives for hiring veterans and provides employment referrals and support. We also provide support for veterans looking to open their own businesses, and the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act, which I co-sponsored and is now law, helps veterans who have been disabled from their service start their own businesses (Ch. 22 of 2014). This legislation marked an important step in increasing economic opportunity for our veterans.

Sometimes it’s also the small things we do that show respect. That’s why I helped pass a law that directs the Department of Motor Vehicles to waive fees for veterans who wish to have their driver’s license or non-driver ID noted with “Veteran” (Ch. 429 of 2014). We should be proud of our veterans, and this notation also makes it easier for them to be identified for benefits.

I’ll keep fighting for everything veterans and their families need to transition back to civilian life. If you’re a veteran interested in learning more about programs that can help, please visit veterans.ny.gov.

Thank you for your service and selflessness this Veterans Day and every day. If there’s anything I can do to help with this or any other community issue, please contact me at StripeA@nyassembly.gov or 315-452-1115.

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[1] www2.census.gov/library/infographics/2015/comm/vets/ny-vets.pdf

[2] governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-launches-fourth-round-regional-economic-development-councils

[3] nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics

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