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Lawmakers ask governor to fully fund veterans support program

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) - A bipartisan group of state lawmakers are asking Governor Kathy Hochul to commit to full funding for a program for New York’s veterans who are coping with PTSD from their time in service.

Senator Sue Serino, a Republican, and Assembly member Didi Barrett, a Democrat, say the program, known as the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Program or Vet2Vet, has been considered by veterans who have used it. It offers non-clinical support and assistance for veterans who are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury or other mental health challenges. The program is maned after Dwyer, who lost his life to PTSD.

Despite the positive outcomes and relatively small price tag of around $5 million dollars, Serino says veterans’ groups and their supporters in the legislature have had to lobby to get the money included in the state budget , because the previous governor, Andrew Cuomo, consistently left the program out of his executive budget proposal.

“Each year despite the program’s stunning success rate,  our veterans are forced to travel to Albany to advocate for funding for the program,” Serino.

Michelle Noonan is one of the veterans who recounted how the program helped her overcome some of the darkest days of her life.

“If it wasn’t for the Vet2Vet program is I wouldn’t be here today,” said Noonan, who said she now can help other veterans.

“It’s a place where I know I won’t be mocked for having PTSD,” she said.

Serino and Barrett are asking Governor Hochul to include the money in her state budget proposal, due in January. A spokesperson for Hochul ,Matt Janiszewski, did not commit to putting the money in to the executive budget, but promised to “work with stakeholders and the legislature during the upcoming budget process to address the needs of veterans across the state”.

The governor did announce that in honor of the holiday, she’s signed into law several bills affecting Veterans.

They include a change to the official date of the Vietnam War from February 28, 1961 to November 1, 1955 to help veterans serving in the conflict before 1961 to become eligible for benefits. Another allows spouses of people in the military to receive unemployment benefits if they have to leave their job and move because their partner has received a military transfer.

Other new laws provide in-state tuition at public New York state and city universities for students, if their parents are active duty military newly  stationed in the state. A bill signed by the governor also  establishes a women veterans advisory committee to offer guidance to the Division of Veterans Services.