Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River), a Vietnam War veteran, today spoke as part of an effort among Assembly Minority members to create a disabled veterans internship program in the assembly. The program, called the GIVE Back NY Program (Giving Internships for disabled Veterans not fully Employed), would allot between 10 and 15 percent of the available Assembly internship positions for New York's wounded heroes.
"Many of our brave men and women come home after serving our country to an economy scarce in job opportunities and struggle to integrate into the civilian workforce. This is a problem felt even more acutely by disabled veterans," said Blankenbush. "It's important that we support our veterans, especially those who were injured while protecting our freedoms, by giving them opportunities to gain and develop workplace skills. By reworking the Assembly Internship program, we have a unique opportunity to GIVE Back' to our disabled veterans."
The statistics are staggering; of disabled Gulf War II veterans, 12.5 percent are facing unemployment. One of the chief concerns for disabled veterans is closing the gap on office-work skills, as physical labor for many is no longer an option.
The GIVE Back NY Program, as proposed by Blankenbush and his Assembly Minority colleagues, would not create an additional cost for the state, as it would simply designate a portion of the existing program specifically for disabled veterans. This, however, would not take away opportunities from college students; the program, which provides 180 internship positions, is actually under utilized this year by about 33 percent, or 60 positions.
The current Assembly Internship program is budgeted for $929,149. The program gives interns a stipend, which would help disabled veterans keep up with bills and other living costs. Additionally, the disabled veteran interns will gain valuable civilian workplace experience and skills. Blankenbush and the other members are in negotiation with the Assembly Majority to get this program launched.
"I am so pleased to see how far we've come in supporting our veterans now compared to when I returned from Vietnam. It is my hope that the GIVE Back NY program, which would be the first of its kind in the nation, can be in place by 2015. It's important that we continue to support and assist these American heroes, who have given their all for us, in any we can," finished Blankenbush.