Photo Courtesy of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office
The two bills have advanced to a vote on the Senate floor.
By Forum Staff
Bills to fund veterans’ service organizations and allow former military members to pursue service-related academic credit at State University of New York and City University of New York institutions have been approved by the State Senate Committee for Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, the bills’ sponsor, Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), announced on Monday.
The first bill would establish a veterans’ service organization fund, which would be supported through the generosity of New York residents who decide they want to contribute to such groups when they file their state personal income tax returns. Under the legislation, New York residents would be able to choose a new income tax “check off” box on their returns to support organizations that provide services to veterans. The contributions would be held in a fund maintained by the State comptroller and the State Division of Taxation and Finance, and monies would be provided to veterans’ service organizations to enable them to better assist former military members in accessing necessary benefits and programs. The contributions would be gifts and not reduce the amount of tax owed by check-off program participants, Addabbo noted.
“Veterans are often in need of a variety of services when they return home, but do not always know where to turn to find out about an array of programs that exist to help them,” the senator said. “Veterans’ service organizations serve as a key liaison between veterans and appropriate government agencies, and their efforts are vital to ensuring that our returning servicemen and women gain access to the health, employment, education and other services available to them.”
Under the second piece of legislation, which would ensure that veterans are able to receive academic credit for their military training and service at SUNY and CUNY institutions, the college courses in which they are enrolled would need to meet the standards of the American Council on Education or otherwise adhere to equivalent standards for awarding credit to students for life experience. While the ACE is already engaged in efforts to award credit to veterans for their service and training, Addabbo’s bill would make it clear that SUNY and CUNY could accept military transcripts as a source of transfer credit, according to the senator’s Office. Veterans would need to be enrolled full-time in college as undergraduates and have been honorably discharged. Additionally, there would be no cap on the number of credits and qualifying veteran students would not be charged tuition fees for the credits.
“We owe our veterans our deepest respect and gratitude, and helping them to succeed here at home when they leave military service is an important part of our responsibility to them,” said Addabbo, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs. “Providing new avenues for veteran’s organizations to raise funds, and helping our veterans to achieve their higher education goals more quickly, are two specific proposals I am hoping to advance for our former servicemen and women.”
Having been approved by committee, the bills now advance to the Senate floor for votes.