Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess/Columbia), chair of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, announced that the 2019-20 state budget that she worked to pass includes key funding for important programs which support New York State veterans - from legal services to job placement to mental health.
I was especially determined to ensure that this budget funded effective programs that focus on the mental and behavioral health needs of our veterans and their families, Barrett said. Addressing these issues is fundamental for veterans to transition to civilian life, to hold down jobs and to prevent substance abuse and suicide, both of which are far too common in the veteran population.
Barrett fought to expand and strengthen veterans programs and services, including bringing attention to initiatives like the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Project, for which Barrett helped secure $4 million in the budget.
The program recognizes that the people who best understand the trauma service men and women have experienced are those who have lived through the same or similar. Through vet-to-vet counseling, the Dwyer program provides a safe and supportive environment for service members to address the challenges associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other mental and behavioral health issues.
Additionally, the state budget includes more than $1.6 million to various veterans programs, including:
- $500,000 for the NYS Defenders Association;
- $250,000 for Veterans Outreach Center;
- $250,000 for the Justice for Heroes initiative;
- $200,000 for the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Military Families and Advocacy Project;
- $200,000 for Helmets to Hardhats;
- $200,000 for Clear Path for Veterans;
- $125,000 for Veterans of Foreign Wars;
- $100,000 North Country Veterans Association; and
- $100,000 for the SAGE Veterans Project.
The budget also changes the name of the state Division of Veterans Affairs to the Division of Veterans Services to avoid confusion with the federal department. In addition, it allocates $1.38 million, a 17.2 percent increase over last year and the first increase in several years, to fully fund county and city service agencies. The programs funded this year are crucial to helping the brave heroes that fought for our country successfully re-enter community life and employment opportunities, Barrett noted.