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  • Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    Legion Points to Top Priority Issues for State Lawmakers

    Oneida County Legionnaires visit with Sen. Joe Griffo.

    Oneida County Legionnaires visit with Sen. Joe Griffo. Photo by Frank Carletta.

    Providing alternative therapies to combat post traumatic stress and preventing veterans’ suicides are top legislative priorities for The American Legion Department of New York, legionnaires told state legislators March 12.

    Legion leaders laid out their priorities during their annual Hill Day breakfast with lawmakers in Albany. Then veterans took the message to the State Capitol as they visited legislators’ offices.

    Kathy Hochul and Legislative Chair Frank LaMarsh

    Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul presents Department Commander Gary Schacher and Legislative Chair Frank LaMarsh with proclamation honoring The American Legion on its 100th anniversary. The proclamation was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The presentation took place March 12 during the Legion’s annual Legislative Hill Day.

    FrankLaMarsh MichaelCusick

    Frank LaMarsh with Assemblyman Michael Cusick of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee. Photo by Frank Carletta.

    “Many of our returning Veterans come home physically and emotionally scarred by the horrors of war,” Department Legislative Chairman Frank LaMarsh noted in his report to legislators.

    “…Too many of today’s returning warriors are battling homelessness, suicide, and the need for employment. In addition, as the number of woman Veterans continues to grow, additional focus and emphasis must be placed on the care and treatment of our woman Veterans. In looking toward the future, we can’t forget the children of our returning Veterans and the impact multiple deployments of one or more parents has on them or the needs of the Veteran caregiver.

    <em> Department Commaner Gary Schacher with Sen. John Brooks, chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.

    Department Commaner Gary Schacher with Sen. John Brooks, chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. Senator Brooks recognized Legion members on the floor of the Senate. Photo by Frank Carletta.

    “The American Legion Department of New York recognizes these concerns and calls upon our New York State Legislature and Governor to join us in reaching out and helping our Veterans’ community by enacting legislation or policies designed to meet those needs. “

    He identified priority legislation, such as:

    1. The devastating impact of PTS and TBI demands a dedicated and comprehensive study to delineate viable treatments such as animal therapy, hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT), and various other courses of action including medical marijuana, that have demonstrated beneficial results. Another alternative, the RTM protocol (The Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories) has a proven track record and the American Legion Department of New York strongly urges the State Legislature to approve and fund this work. In addition, we ask that State agencies be directed to undertake such studies as necessary and make public the results.

    2. Suicide is an epidemic among our Veterans, still averaging more than 20 per day nationwide. The American Legion encourages Congress and the President to sign into law acts similar to the Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act that will expand and improve care provided for Veterans and service members with mental health issues who are at risk for suicide.  We also urge the New York State Legislature and State agencies to provide greater awareness and to keep funding programs and groups that reach out to men and women in uniform, Veterans and their families through family care programs, suicide prevention programs, job fairs, and public service announcements, bringing about awareness of PTS and suicide prevention.

    3. Even though that medical and mental health care are primarily the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Legion encourages New York State to muster support for any and all viable treatment that offers help for military service men and women to deal with the trauma of war.

    The Legion further asks New York State and its agencies to review any means of extending State recognized alternative health care programs to disabled Veterans unable to receive such care through their VA health care providers.

    4. The American Legion urges to state legislature to pass a resolution asking the federal government to take action to identify the remains of crewmen killed aboard the USS Turner that exploded and sank on Jan. 3, 1944 outside New York harbor. A total of 136 crewmen were killed. The remains of some crewmen may be interred in four graves in Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale marked Unkown U.S. Sailor with the date Jan. 3, 1944.

    Upon being identified, the Legion would like the remains to be given the respect and burial they deserve, and that their families be given the opportunity to grieve and lay their loved ones to rest.