Wednesday, March 08, 2017
Legislators Express Support for Veterans at Hill Day Breakfast
ALBANY — “We should not argue” about veterans’ issues in state government.
That’s how Sen. James Sanders Jr. of Queens put it when declaring his support for New York American Legion’s legislative agenda during the Legion’s annual Hill Day legislative breakfast March 7 at the Empire State Plaza. Over 200 members of the Legion, Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion were present. (See photo gallery.)
“We have to keep the goal in sight, and that goal is the Legion’s legislative agenda,” said Sanders, a former Marine serving on the Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs Committee. “I read it. It’s reasonable.”
Topping that agenda is alternative medical care for those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).
“That is our number one priority,” declared Frank LaMarsh, the newly appointed Legislative chairman for The American Legion Department of New York. He said the Legion was urging:
— New York State to study viable alternative treatments, such as animal therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy;
— the Legislature to provide the U.S. Congress with a Memorial Resolution urging the use of alternative treatments for PTSD and TBI;
— the 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 VA health care providers.
Department of New York Commander John Sampson read a welcoming letter from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that saluted the Legion for being “effective advocates for veterans” for nearly a century.
The chairman of the military affairs committee, Sen. Thomas D. Croci of Suffolk County, noted that in the military there is a special camaraderie, a sense of family. “I get to see so many of my family here today,” said Croci, a U.S. Navy veteran.
Pointing to servicemen and women as being “the caliber of individuals we need in our communities,” he said New York State should be doing everything it can to attract and keep veterans. That’s why the legislature has passed a number of veterans-related bills and continues to look at legislation benefitting vets.
American Legion Posts “are centers of our communities,” where a host of events are held. For that reason, he thinks posts “should be eligible for state capital grants” to make improvements to their facilities – and he would be working on legislation that would allow just that.
Croci said he would like to see money for veterans’ programs increase in every new state budget – instead of having to fight the governor’s cuts in veterans spending.
Assemblyman Michael DenDekker of Queens, who chairs the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, put it another way – that the governor needs to be reminded that five percent of the state’s population has served in the armed forces.
“Please make your voices heard,” he urged.
Another Veterans Affairs Committee member, freshman Assemblyman Angelo J. Morinello of Niagara Falls, recalled the time he served in the Vietnam War. “Many of us coming back from Vietnam were vilified.” Today, those in government “use us for photo opps.”
He favors mandatory military service, and pointed to homeless 18 to 21 year olds. “There’s a home for them. It’s called the military.”