ALBANY -- While the American Legion is pushing for some 15 proposals for the State Legislature to enact, there are three core issues affecting veterans today -- jobs, homelessness and suicide, New York State American Legion Legislative Chair Joseph Barry told the Hill Day Legislative Breakfast March 18 at the Albany Hilton Hotel.
More than 200 American Legion leaders from around the state were at the breakfast, along with a number of state senators and Assembly members. Following breakfast, legionnaires visited their respective legislators in their offices to push the veterans agenda.
Jobs-related legislation would perhaps have the most far-reaching impact in helping veterans, Barry noted.
State American Legion Commander Kenneth Governor introduced several legislative leaders who spoke at the breakfast, including Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Chair Greg Ball, who urged legionnaires to push the Jobs for Heroes Bill when they meet with legislators.
The bill sets aside 5 percent of government contract work for businesses owned by disabled veterans -- or more than $400 million in business, he said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports it, he said; it just needs more legislators behind it. Since veterans hire other veterans, the bill would impact the high veteran unemployment rate.
"Saying 'thank you for your service' doesn't mean a damn thing," Senator Ball said, "if it's not backed up" by action. Hold legislators "accountable," urged Ball, who is an Air Force Academy graduate.
Joseph Addabbo Jr., ranking minority member of the Senate veterans affairs committee, referred to a survey where the majority of employers questioned the benefit of hiring a vet -- "what do I get out of hiring a vet?"
"You get someone who's capable of handling a (crisis) situation...," he shouted, "someone who knows how to work as a team."
He added: "You being here reminds us about how much we have yet to do still for our veterans."
Assembly Vererans Affairs Chair Michael Benedetto pointed to a bill just signed by the governor that would give unemployed veterans preference for temporary state jobs. "New York State hires temporary workers to the tune of $80 million dollars" a year. The new law would establish a list of unemployed veterans to draw from, which should be ready in about six months, he said.
The Assembly ranking minority member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Stephen Hawley, pointed to the jobs bill and to a proposal to extend the Assembly internship program to disabled vets so they can earn money while gaining practical office experience.
"We are united in our commitment to honor all our veterans who sacrificed so much for our nation."