The sight of a soldier embracing family after returning home is a beautiful and unforgettable scene. For many, though, the reunion signals the beginning of a new set of challenges. Veterans face many obstacles as they strive to re-enter civilian life and the workforce, often while coping with the physical and psychological repercussions of defending our freedoms. Veterans Day, November 11, is a time to recognize these heroes for their service to our country and renew our commitment to getting them the support they deserve.
Home to nearly 900,000 veterans, New York State has a moral responsibility to care for service members who have returned home. Unfortunately, statistics show that about half of all post-9/11 service members will face some period of unemployment upon their return. In addition, veterans make up 12 percent of the adult homeless population in our country, including a growing number of women with children.
This year, the Assembly unanimously passed legislation that would direct key state agencies to gather information on the state’s homeless veterans and their children so we may better support them (A.434). In addition, we passed a new law creating the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund, to which New Yorkers can easily contribute by simply checking a box on their income tax forms (Ch. 428 of 2014). The State also passed a new law I sponsored creating a local municipal option to increase the maximum property tax exemption cap allowed under the preexisting alternative veteran’s exemption and exemption for Cold War veterans (Chapter 381 of 2015).
In the fight against veteran homelessness, effective job placement is a powerful resource. That’s why the Assembly Majority has continually passed laws to help our veterans find meaningful and well-paid work, including tax credits for small businesses that hire veterans (Ch. 59 of 2013) and the Veterans Employment Act to help give veterans temporary staffing jobs in state agencies (Ch. 557 of 2013).
Meanwhile, the federal GI bill continues to help veterans earn a college degree. Home loan programs and property tax exemptions for veterans also help our heroes fulfill the American dream of homeownership. Once veterans have transitioned back into civilian life, we must continue to say thank you. That’s why more than 12,000 businesses statewide offer discounts for active military personnel and veterans.
Though we should always remember to thank our veterans, November 11 serves as a yearly reminder to reflect on their sacrifices. There are many memorials and parades taking place both nationally and locally to honor our heroes. This Veterans Day, make sure to take time out to reflect on all that our brave heroes sacrificed for our freedom–and thank them.