Directs the division of veterans' affairs to establish and distribute a veterans' bill of rights, and to contract with veterans' services outreach programs.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law, in relation to establishing a "veterans' bill of rights" directing the division of veterans' affairs to provide for the establishment and certification of veterans' services outreach programs
PURPOSE: Directs the division of veterans' affairs to establish and distribute a veterans' bill of rights, and to contract with veterans' services outreach programs.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Amends the executive law to add a new section 353-a to provide for a veterans' bill of rights which the Division of Veterans' Affairs will be responsible for establishing, printing, publishing, and distributing. The section includes text that shall be included in the bill of rights. The Division will be required to post the veterans' bill of rights on their website, and distribute it in all offices of the Division, at all local veterans' services agencies, and at every veterans' services outreach program and at every state and local agency which provides services, benefits or assistance to veterans.
Amends the executive law to add a new section 361-c to provide for veterans' services outreach programs throughout the State. The programs will provide veterans with information on, assistance with, and referral to programs which provide services and benefits that veterans are eligible to receive. The outreach programs will be required to cooperate with veterans' agencies and local municipalities and communities. The Division of Veterans' Affairs will contract with and certify qualified not-for-profit organizations to operate veterans' services outreach programs given specified conditions and application guidelines. The outreach programs shall provide services, counseling, information and referral services to veterans based on need or eligibility, including referral to agencies providing public assistance benefits and services.
JUSTIFICATION: 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.
What we now recognize is that, among other things, there is a higher incidence of post traumatic stress syndrome, rate of suicide, and depression, among returning soldiers than ever before. At this time,
the Division of Veterans' Affairs maintains 71 local points of access, some full-time and others itinerant. Hypothetically, if each center serviced an equal amount of veterans in our State, this would equate to an overwhelming 13,918 servicemen and women per center. In light of these numbers, it is vital that New York State increase the number of veterans' centers in order to provide services, information, assistance, and support, in an attempt to successfully meet the needs of the veterans, their families, and their communities.
This bill will enable the Department of Veterans' Affairs to 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. Such programs will be charged with providing veterans information on assistance, referrals, and counseling. To that end, a Veterans' Bill of Rights will be distributed to each veteran at all veterans' agencies and centers and will be posted on the Division of Veterans' Affairs website. This will educate our veterans on the benefits and assistance afforded to them in this State, and will ensure that each veteran has the appropriate assistance in his/her transition from active military duty to civilian life.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: To be determined.
EFFECTIVE DATE: The first of January next succeeding the date on which it shall have become a law; provided that effective immediately, any action necessary to implement the provisions of this act on its effective date are authorized to be completed on or before such effective date.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 4769 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE April 20, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sen. McDONALD -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Securi- ty and Military Affairs AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to establishing a "veter- ans' bill of rights" directing the division of veterans' affairs to provide for the establishment and certification of veterans' services outreach programs THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The executive law is amended by adding two new sections 353-a and 361-c to read as follows: S 353-A. VETERANS' BILL OF RIGHTS. 1. THE DIVISION SHALL ESTABLISH, PRINT, PUBLISH AND DISTRIBUTE A VETERANS' BILL OF RIGHTS. SUCH BILL OF RIGHTS SHALL INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING OR SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR TEXT: "VETERANS' BILL OF RIGHTS YOU AS A VETERAN HAVE A RIGHT: (A) TO APPLY FOR VETERANS' BENEFITS; (B) TO RECEIVE ASSISTANCE FROM YOUR LOCAL VETERANS' SERVICE AGENCY AND THE NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS; (C) TO RECEIVE AN EXPLANATION OF THE SERVICES AND BENEFITS AVAILABLE UNDER FEDERAL AND NEW YORK STATE LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS; (D) TO RECEIVE WRITTEN NOTICE AND AN EXPLANATION OF THE APPROVAL OR DENIAL OF YOUR APPLICATION FOR BENEFITS AVAILABLE UNDER NEW YORK STATE LAW; (E) TO BE TREATED WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT; (F) TO APPEAL ANY ADVERSE DETERMINATION OR DENIAL OF YOUR APPLICATION FOR SERVICES OR BENEFITS AVAILABLE UNDER NEW YORK STATE LAW; (G) TO EXPECT CONFIDENTIALITY; (H) TO RECEIVE FAIR AND EQUAL TREATMENT WITHOUT REGARD TO SEX, RACE, RELIGION, DISABILITY, ETHNICITY OR NATIONAL ORIGIN; ANDEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD04221-01-1 S. 4769 2
(I) TO BE INFORMED OF ASSISTANCE PROVIDED TO VETERANS IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK RELATING TO: (1) COLLEGE ASSISTANCE, (2) MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING, (3) HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, WOMEN VETERANS' HEALTH, (4) SEXUAL TRAUMA, (5) FAMILY ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS, (6) HOUSING, (7) DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, (8) SUICIDE PREVENTION, AND (9) SUPPORT GROUPS." 2. THE DIVISION SHALL MAKE THE VETERANS' BILL OF RIGHTS AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET WEBSITE MAINTAINED BY THE DIVISION, AT ALL OFFICES OF THE DIVISION, AT ALL LOCAL VETERANS' SERVICES AGENCIES, AT EVERY VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAM AND AT EVERY STATE AND LOCAL AGENCY WHICH PROVIDES SERVICES, BENEFITS OR ASSISTANCE TO VETERANS. S 361-C. VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAMS. 1. THE DIVISION SHALL PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAMS THROUGHOUT THE STATE. SUCH PROGRAMS SHALL PROVIDE VETERANS WITH INFORMA- TION ON, ASSISTANCE WITH AND REFERRAL TO PROGRAMS WHICH PROVIDE SERVICES AND BENEFITS THAT VETERANS ARE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE. EACH VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAM SHALL COOPERATE AND COORDINATE WITH, ON BEHALF OF VETERANS, THE DIVISION, THE FEDERAL VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION, LOCAL VETERANS' SERVICES AGENCIES, THE SURROUNDING MUNICIPALITIES AND COMMUNI- TIES, AND STATE AND LOCAL AGENCIES WHICH PROVIDE SERVICES, BENEFITS OR ASSISTANCE TO VETERANS. 2. THE DIVISION SHALL CONTRACT WITH AND CERTIFY QUALIFIED NOT-FOR-PRO- FIT ORGANIZATIONS FOR THE OPERATION OF VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAMS. ANY NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATION WITH QUALIFIED PERSONNEL, AND SUITABLE FACILITIES, PROGRAMS AND EXPERTISE MAY APPLY TO THE STATE DIRECTOR FOR CERTIFICATION AS A VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAM. SUCH APPLICATION SHALL BE SUBMITTED ON A FORM ESTABLISHED BY THE DIVI- SION AND SHALL CONTAIN SUCH INFORMATION AND PROOF AS SHALL BE DETERMINED TO BE NECESSARY BY THE STATE DIRECTOR. UPON CERTIFICATION OF A NOT-FOR- PROFIT ORGANIZATION AS A VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAM, THE DIVI- SION SHALL ENTER INTO A CONTRACT WITH SUCH ORGANIZATION FOR THE PROVISION OF VETERANS' OUTREACH SERVICES. 3. VETERANS' SERVICES OUTREACH PROGRAMS SHALL PROVIDE SERVICES, COUN- SELING, INFORMATION AND REFERRAL SERVICES TO VETERANS TO THE GREATEST EXTENT OF EACH VETERAN'S NEED OR ELIGIBILITY, INCLUDING REFERRAL TO AGENCIES PROVIDING PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS AND SERVICES. S 2. This act shall take effect on the first of January next succeed- ing the date on which it shall have become a law; provided that effec- tive immediately, any action necessary to implement the provisions of this act on its effective date are authorized to be completed on or before such effective date.