America’s veterans have sacrificed countless hours for our country, spent time away from their families, and in many cases, put their lives on the line to defend our way of life. As the father, son, brother and uncle of U.S. military veterans, I have a deep understanding and appreciation of the hardships and challenges of military service. We must stand up for our veterans as they have stood for us time and again.
As state budget talks progress, I have deep concerns over the lack of support for New York’s veterans. Specifically, the Assembly Majority, along with the governor, have cut all funding for the SPC Joseph P. Dwyer peer-to-peer veterans mental health counseling program. The Dwyer program received $3.7 million last year — a drop in the bucket in the state’s overall $176 billion spending plan. This year, the governor and Assembly Democrats have proposed to eliminate all funding for the program. What sort of message are we sending our military heroes by ending state support for this life-saving effort?
The importance of mental health counseling cannot be overstated, especially for veterans facing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a number of other challenging diagnoses. This program is at risk, and the lack of commitment to those who served our state and our nation is shameful. New York gives tax credits to luxury yacht buyers, offers hundreds of millions in tax breaks to Hollywood studios, and has spent $750 million in Buffalo to create 750 solar plant jobs.
There is no shortage of places where funding for veterans can be drawn from. For too long, the state’s spending priorities have been an affront to those who have served, and continue to serve, our great nation. This must be the year we fix this injustice.
Assistance to veterans
The Assembly Minority Conference strongly believes in protecting the interests of our veterans. I have sponsored the Veteran Owned Business Enterprise Act (A.4490 Kolb) to give service-related, veteran-owned businesses the same benefits we offer to minority- and women-owned businesses.
Another measure I have advocated for is a New York State Thruway tolls exemption for veterans (A.4100, Kolb) as well as a proposal to allow them to fish for free in state parks. Each step we take toward easing their transition back home is a step in the right direction. They deserve our gratitude, and they deserve to know we have their backs.
New York’s veterans must not be treated as an afterthought. We owe them our attention, our care and our respect. Our Conference will continue to fight for them as we ramp up budget negotiations. Let’s make sure they know how much they mean to us and show them the commitment they have more than earned.
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York state. You can always contact my district office at 315-781-2030, email me at email@example.com, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua represents the 131st District, which includes Ontario County and part of Seneca County.