The Senate’s ruling coalition of Republicans and Independent Democrats is pushing legislation — a version of which was vetoed once before by Gov. David Paterson — that would add small businesses owned by service-connected disabled veterans to the list of those who receive preference on state contracts.
The so-called NY Jobs for Heroes Program is sponsored by Republican Sen. Greg Ball, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and in the Assembly by Democrat Felix Ortiz, who served in the Army.
Just last week in his State of the State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed support for the idea, if not the bill specifically, when in his State of the State he set a goal of awarding 5 percent of state contracts to businesses owned by disabled veterans.
If it passes, New York would become the 45th state to have such a program.
“We call ourselves the Empire State, and we’re maybe going to be 45th?” said state Sen. Bill Larkin, an Orange County Republican and Troy native who served in combat in both World War II and the Korean War. “We’re not talking about people who are begging for something.”
Ball, a Putnam County Republican, said the bill will live up to its commitment to provide opportunities for the increasingly small segment of the population that shoulders the burden in an all-volunteer military — many more of whom are coming home from battle alive, thanks to advances in armor and medical care, but also seriously disabled.
“Ninety-five percent of those that sustain an injury on the battlefield live to make it home, and we do a very good job in this country of getting men and women to raise that right hand … and say that I am willing to fight and die for the United States of America. But we do not do a great job either as a state or as a nation in transitioning those men and women back into the workforce,” Ball said. “This is the most important piece of legislation that this Senate, this Legislature will pass and this gov can sign to actually make sure that we employ veterans in the state of New York, not only as truck drivers, not selling trinkets at the local carnival — but meaningful employment.”
Ball said the provisions that had prompted Paterson’s veto had been fixed — though he would not say what they were.
Matt Kuskie, a 2001 West Point graduate who served in Iraq and later became a judge advocate lawyer, described his difficulty finding work in the financial services industry after being medically retired from the Army — until he found Drexel Hamilton, a firm founded by a service-disabled veteran.
“As all of you know we’re at a crisis point right now in the United States with veteran suicide. Getting guys to work, giving them meaningful lives after they take the uniform on goes a long way to helping people put the past behind them,” Kuskie said. “Our economy is at a size now, it’s matured to the point that no one would miss us if we disappeared, so then there’s the moral question: These guys did something for your country, what can we do for them now?
Kuskie continued: “Since Vietnam, the Army has invested heavily in educating its NCO and officer corps. These are very capable people. When you’re trying to break into an industry that you haven’t worked in before, someone receives your resume, they say, ‘Well this is an investment bank. I see you were an infantryman. I don’t know what to use you for, maybe. Or what are you good for? … It turns out that an infantry sniper from the 82nd Airborne Division makes a pretty good bond trader.” (ARTICLE)