By: Theresa Juva-Brown
MAHOPAC – Veterans and elected officials gathered at a forum Saturday to rally support for state legislation that would give a boost to businesses owned by disabled veterans.
The proposed NY Jobs for Heroes program — expected to be passed as part of the state budget package — calls for 5 percent of state contracts to be set aside for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. The legislation would also create a state division to certify those businesses and mange the program.
“To me, this legislation is not just about jobs,” said state Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs committee. “It’s about saving lives through meaningful employment.”
He noted that the federal government has a similar program for disabled veteran business owners, in addition to 44 states. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he supports the program.
Saturday’s forum held at Carmel Town Hall was organized by Ball and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring. Speakers included former HBO chief executive officer Bill Nelson, who was a sergeant in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, and Joseph Krudler, who was a sergeant in Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Leaders of local veteran groups said many who serve in the military face homelessness, unemployment, and psychological problems when they return to civilian life, not to mention permanent physical injuries. The leaders voiced outrage that many struggle with bureaucratic red tape to get the care and services they need from the federal government.
Neil Gross, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 21, said he wanted to see the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs use its health facility in Montrose for more education programs for veterans.
“When you educate a vet and he’s got a job, he’s got hope and he’s got a future,” he said. “That’s how our country is built — on hope and dreams.” (ARTICLE)