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Veterans Bill Signed Into Law

Measure enhances

veterans’ benefits access

Senator Jack Martins and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel were joined on Aug. 9 by members of local veterans’ organizations to announce that veterans’ legislation they sponsored (S.5825/A.6221-C) was signed into law on Aug. 2 by Governor Andrew Cuomo. In an effort to improve the benefit claims process for New York’s veterans, the law requires that directors of city and county veterans’ service agencies become accredited as veterans’ service organization (VSO) representatives.

“New York State is committed to giving our veterans the best care possible after they return from serving our nation and defending the freedoms we cherish as Americans,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new law will enable local Veterans Service Agencies to better serve our heroes returning from overseas, and give our veterans and their families the ability to apply for vital federal benefits in their own communities. This is another step by New York State in our efforts to be the national model for how state government serves our veterans and their families.”

Local VSA directors are appointed by New York county executives and mayors, and are not required to be accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Without the federal accreditation, local offices cannot oversee the preparation and submission of claims by veterans and their families for federal benefits.

The New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs can accredit VSA directors and staff at no cost. Training is conducted on-line, one-on-one with a state veterans service counselor, and annually at several geographic locations throughout the State.

“This law will provide veterans throughout the state with a go to person for help getting the benefits they’re entitled to,” said Senator Jack Martins (R-C-I, Mineola). “In order to better serve New York’s veterans and their families and help them get the state and the federal benefits to which they are entitled, it makes sense for the directors of our VAs across the State to be accredited. This legislation will do just that and increase the number of knowledgeable, trusted, accredited agents who can serve our veterans. I want to thank Assemblywoman Schimel for her work on this important measure and the Governor for signing this bill into law.”

Assemblywoman Schimel, a member of the Assembly’s veterans affairs committee, said, “It is crucial that we, in government, ensure that those who have risked their lives defending our nation are cared for once they return to civilian life. This law will ensure that veterans and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled to in a more efficient and timely manner. I thank the governor for realizing the importance of this measure, Senator Martins for carrying the bill in the Senate, and Andy Booth of the Nassau County American Legion for helping me advance this important legislation.”

The new law, which becomes effective Aug. 30, requires current directors of local veterans agencies to become accredited within three years. Those hired after the effective date have 18 months to become an accredited VSO representative.

 “On behalf of the veterans of New York State, the Nassau County American Legion thanks Assemblywoman Schimel and Senator Martins for their advocacy on this important legislation, which will help speed up the work that is required for veterans to receive their state and federal benefits,” said Andrew Booth, co-chair of the Nassau County American Legion’s legislative committee. Booth, of Levittown, brought this issue to Assemblywoman Schimel’s attention.

“From a mental health standpoint, this new law will bring tremendous relief and help clear up the obstacles and sometimes confusing paperwork veterans face when trying to secure their benefits,” said John Javis, chair of the veterans health alliance of Long Island. “It is especially important when a physically or emotionally wounded veteran is being discharged home and needs services and benefits quickly. This new law will help speed up that process for them.”