New York lawmakers consider cabinet-level status for veterans agency | Politics

The state’s Veterans Services Division could get a rank advancement.

A group of state lawmakers is proposing a bill that would elevate the division to a cabinet-level department. The agency would have its own governor-appointed commissioner and would be similar in structure to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which is a federal cabinet department within the executive branch.

The State Veterans Service Division was established in 1945 to help veterans of World War II. It falls under the Office of General Services of the State.

State Sen. John Brooks, a Long Island Democrat and one of the sponsors of the legislation, pointed to bipartisan support for the bill. Co-sponsors include Republican Assemblymen John Lemondes and Brian Manktelow, who both represent Cayuga County districts.

“Together, we recognize that it is time to elevate this division to a cabinet-level department to meet the needs of every veteran in the state and create a more centralized and powerful voice for advocacy, said Brooks, who chairs the state Senate. Committee on Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “By passing this bill, we can finally give veterans a seat at the governor’s cabinet table.”

The bill would also establish a new Veterans Services Act to consolidate programs into one section and encourage coordination among other agencies to help veterans access benefits, such as education, housing assistance and mental health care. According to lawmakers, about 17% of New York veterans have access to their benefits.

Congresswoman Didi Barrett, who is sponsoring the legislation in her chamber, thinks New York can do better.

“It is time for New York State to elevate the current Division of Veterans Services – founded 75 years ago to serve veterans of World War II – into a single department for veterans with a commissioner and an expanded budget based on expanded programming and responsibilities.”

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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