Hannon Introduces New Legislation to Create First Veterans Bill of Rights
Senator Kemp Hannon (6th SD) has introduced legislation (S8277) that directs the Division of Veterans’ Affairs to establish and distribute a Veteran’s Bill of Rights, and to contract with veterans’ services outreach programs.
“Bottom line, there’s a problem in the current process pertaining to veterans receiving the benefits they deserve and it’s unacceptable,” said Senator Hannon. “This bill will ensure that New York residents who served in the armed forces obtain the protections and benefits they should have been receiving all along,” Hannon continued.
Under the proposed legislation, veterans would be guaranteed the right to obtain help from local veterans service agencies and the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs, receive an explanation of benefits available under federal and state law, and receive written notice when benefits are approved or denied.
Other provisions contained in Hannon’s Veterans’ Bill of Rights include:
• The right to receive fair and equal treatment, without regard for sex, race, religion, disability, ethnicity or national origin.
• The right to information regarding assistance with college, mental health counseling, health benefits, sexual trauma, family programs, housing, domestic violence, suicide prevention and support groups.
• The right to expect confidentiality, and to be treated with dignity and respect
Furthermore, Hannon’s legislation requires the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs to distribute this vital information via its website and offices, veterans service agencies, veterans outreach programs and state and local agencies providing benefits and assistance to veterans.
In addition, the Department of Veterans' Affairs would certify not-for-profit organizations to serve as outreach programs in order to expand the network of agencies aiding our veterans by utilizing pre-existing infrastructure, which such programs will be charged with providing veterans information on assistance, referrals, and counseling. The use of pre-existing non-for-profits for this objective will greatly mitigate costs on all levels.
According to the Division of Veterans' Affairs, to date, there are approximately 988,217 veterans in New York State. Of these veterans, there are around 85,000 New Yorkers who have participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or both, since September 11, 2001.
These "new" veterans, as well as those who have admirably served our country in the past, are not only mothers and fathers, but contributing members of their communities who are expected to resume their everyday lives upon return. These homecomings can only be successful, if New York State's veterans are made aware of, and provided with, the proper information and appropriate access to New York State services and benefits.