Assembly Ashby, Assembly Minority Leader Barclay, Senator Jordan, Assembly Minority Conference Call For Funding Restoration For Critical Veterans’ Services

February 25, 2020

Today at the State Capitol, Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R,C,I,Ref-Castleton), Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski), Sen. Daphne Jordan (R,C,I,Ref-Halfmoon) and the Assembly Minority Conference hosted a “Voices for Veterans” press conference with Gary Flaherty, Director of Columbia County Veterans Services, veterans, and several veteran service organizations. Together they called for the immediate restoration of Gov. Cuomo’s planned $5.68 million cuts to veterans’ services.

Gov. Cuomo’s proposed 2020-2021 Executive Budget takes aim at initiatives that range from helping soldiers manage PTSD and mental health challenges to enabling veterans to find job training and successful careers to improving access to VA services and quality health care.

“Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much to serve and protect our great nation. They have more than earned our support – this is why I am fighting to restore $6 million in funding for veterans programs,” said Ashby, the ranking Minority member on the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Every year the governor tries to chip away at funding for veterans – funding that provides mental health services and critical help with the transition to civilian life. We won’t let him get away with it. New York must restore its support and commitment to veterans now.”

“Using New York’s heroes as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations is unacceptable. The governor’s proposed cuts to essential veteran-related programs would be devastating. These services, including the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program, play a critical role in helping our veterans with mental health, job training and legal services. Let us not forget, these brave men and women who served our country need, and deserve, our support here at home,” said Minority Leader Barclay.

The largest cut proposed is to the wildly-successful, popular Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program. The governor’s budget eliminates more than $4 million from the counseling program that allows veterans to connect with other men and women who have served in the armed forces and are facing challenges similar to their own.

“I’m proud to stand with my good friend and decorated combat veteran Assemblyman Jake Ashby, the Ranking Minority on the Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Veteran’s Service Agency Directors Peter Goebel from Rensselaer County, and Gary Flaherty from Columbia County, and Capital Region veterans and veteran’s advocates, in calling for continued investment in the proven programs that help our heroes. Specifically, New York needs a restoration of $3.7 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program in the 2020-21 State Budget. This funding restoration is of vital importance for New York’s veterans who served with patriotism, professionalism, and pride. The Dwyer Program is a groundbreaking initiative that helps veterans dealing with the invisible wounds of war, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and depression. Funding for the Dwyer Program and other veteran’s initiatives is not a luxury; it is a priority and must be reflected in the final 2020-21 State Budget,” Senator Jordan said.

“I join Assemblyman Ashby in calling for a full restoration of the $6 million in funding meant to serve New York veterans. Annually, our veterans and program administrators are left with great uncertainty as to the kind of funding that will be available year to year,” said Flaherty, Director of Columbia County Veterans Services. “New York veterans have given so much to protect our country and freedoms, it is my hope that our state would be here for them by funding need counseling and services to help them adjust to civilian life.”

Among some of the other veteran-related programs facing funding cuts are:

  • Helmets-to-Hardhats: $200,000—Assists post-9/11 veterans’ transition into careers in the building trades.
  • Clear Path for Veterans: $200,000—Serves as a key source for veterans in upstate New York to access resources and programs including professional skills and training development, peer and wingman services and K-9 therapy programs.
  • NYS Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program: $500,000—Provides training, legal assistance and support to provide representation of veterans and service members involved in the criminal or family court systems.
  • SAGE Veterans Project: $100,000—SAGE advocates and offers services that help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults who are veterans of military service improve their access to the VA and other veteran services, as well as support their overall health and wellness.
  • Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project: $200,000—Provides assistance with applying for veterans benefits and representation before the Board of Veterans Appeals and in federal court, at no cost to veterans, when benefits are denied.

The Conference is also pushing to codify the expansion of the MERIT scholarship program by enacting it into law. After public outrage about the scholarship being blocked in Committee last year – preventing the expansion of the program – an Executive Action was issued to increase the program ensuring the children of deceased and disabled veterans would receive the benefits they truly deserve. Members of the Assembly Minority Conference are now pushing for the scholarship to be properly passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

Assemblyman Ashby has been co-hosting events in regions across New York state with Assembly Minority members. The next “Voices for Veterans” event will be held at the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Building, 1620 Rt. 22, Brewster, NY 10509, on Friday, March 6 at 10 a.m.