By Tom Auchterlonie

Businesses that are owned by disabled military veterans could get a boost under a proposed bill that would give them preference during the bidding process for state contracts.

On Friday at the Mount Kisco Public Library, state Sen. Greg Ball, Assemblyman Robert Castelli, and several disabled veterans held a hearing to voice support for the legislation. Ball is sponsoring a billthat is pending in the senate.

“What they’re seeking is access to the American dream,” Cauldon Quinn, a disabled veteran who is a retired Naval lieutenant. Quinn works at Drexel Hamilton, a financial services firm that supports training veterans.

The veterans stressed the importance of having steady employment, both for self-worth and to give them the opportunity to succeed.

“I could be the best guy on the street but if I don’t get the opportunity, then I can’t show you how great I am,” Quinn said. “That’s what this bill does, not give preferential treatment, not give set-asides, but open the doors, open the doors to a group that is disadvantaged, uniquely disadvantaged in the market place when seeking employment.”

Quinn believes that the overall issue of getting more jobs for veterans can be helped if the paradigm if shifted, which would be helped by being given opportunity.

“We just want an even playing field and an opportunity to go ahead and perform to the best of the abilities that we have and that we have the ability to learn,” said Army Staff Sgt. Ben Downing, who has gone through Drexel Hamilton’s Wall Street War Fighters industry training program for veterans. Downing, who was injured previously while on duty, has undergone physical therapy and plan to return to service in Afghanistan later this year.

“I think it’s important for people in the civilian world to know: Because a man has no legs it doesn’t mean he has no brain,” Castelli said. “Hiring veterans, especially service-disabled veterans, is good business and good for business.”

Jerald Majetich, a retired Army Staff Sgt. who was wounded in 2005 by an explosive and gunfire in Iraq, underwent 62 corrective surgeries for his recovery.

At his appearance, Majetich talked about how being an “obviously physically injured person,” people look at him and that it makes a difference. Majetich, who has also gotten training from Wall Street War Fighters, noted that veterans help each other, and also discussed the importance of his children and their connection to his desire to work.

“I’m a single father of three children, I want to set an example for my children and show them that no matter what happens in your life, you can always strive forward and become what you want to be.”

Under the legislation, the preference change would be similar to that already granted by companies owned by women and minorities. Krista Gobins, Ball’s legislative director, noted that both groups have had this support because the concept was that they were disadvantaged, a status that she described disabled veterans as also being in.

The preference system, Gobins explained, can be used during the bidding process and has a formula. For example, if a business that would qualify under it comes in with a higher bid than another group, its bid could be counted as being lower.

Similar legislation was vetoed by David Paterson when he was governor, Gobins explained. The federal government already has a preference system for disabled veterans.

Some veterans noted that one obstacle in getting hired is a difference in backgrounds between the job candidates and those doing the hiring.

Quinn felt that hiring managers may look at backgrounds they are familiar with.

“I understand those things and I can assign value to them as a civilian hiring manager, but I can’t assign value to military acronyms and experiences that I have no experiential base to draw from.”

Among those expressing similar sentiments was Shane Osborn, a former Nebraska state treasurer. In 2001 he led a Naval air reconnaissance mission near China that was intercepted by the Chinese military, with one of their planes being downed in the process. Osborn and his crew were detained for 12 days before being released. He later went on to serve in Afghanistan.

“People didn’t know how to translate what I did in my experiences into a corporate civilian job,” said Osborn, who now works at financial services company Academy Securities, which has an office in White Plains.

“The Empire State has a rich history of acting as trendsetters for the public good, but it seems we’re falling behind in terms of supporting those who swore oaths to serve,” said Christopher Byrne, a retired army captain who is a director for Summit Security.

At the meeting, Ball vowed to get the legislation passed.

“We’re going to be on this issue like a pit bull on a ham bone,” he said. The state senator hopes that both houses of the state legislature will pass the bill by the end of the year. An earlier version. (ARTICLE)

About Greg Ball

Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) is the Senator for New York State's 40th district. A former Vice President of Exceed International Development Corporation, Ball holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the United States Air Force Academy, is currently completing his Masters Thesis of Liberal Studies in International Affairs at Georgetown University, and received an honorable discharge in 2005 at the rank of Captain after service as an active duty officer in the United States Air Force. View all posts by Greg Ball →
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