Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess/Columbia) announced that the Restoration of Honor Act, which she authored, was signed into law (Ch. 490 of 2019) by Governor Cuomo on Veterans Day. The measure extends the eligibility for state benefits to veterans who have received a less than honorable discharge because of unfair or discriminatory discharge policies, which include less than honorable discharges for traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military sexual trauma (MST), as well as veterans who received a discharge for their sexual orientation or gender identity under Dont Ask, Dont Tell.
The men and women who have stepped up and risked their lives to protect and serve our country embody what it means to be a hero. Yet, for far too long, many of our veterans in the LGBTQ community, those who experienced military sexual trauma and vets struggling with mental and behavioral health disorders have been denied the support and resources theyve earned when they separate from service, Assemblymember Barrett said. With this new law we are righting a terrible wrong and showing this group of veterans how grateful we are for their service and that were here for them now that they are home.
In order to receive state benefits, many programs require that a service member have an honorable discharge to participate. However, many veterans have received less than honorable discharges as a result of TBI, PTSD or MST, or due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. These discharges, which are also known as bad papers, cannot be revised by the state and prevent many veterans from receiving their hard-earned benefits.
To fix this injustice and ensure all of our brave veterans receive the respect and support theyre owed, Barrett introduced and helped pass this new law extending eligibility to certain veterans who have been given less than honorable discharges.
In addition to the Restoration of Honor Act, three other important pieces of veterans legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Barrett were signed on Veterans Day. The bills signed were Chapter 481 of 2019, codifying the Division of Veterans Services Discharge Upgrade Advisory Board, a program that helps veterans upgrade discharges given as a result of unfair or discriminatory practices; Chapter 486 of 2019, which requires clear labeling of NYS jobs made available under the 55-c program, a program that helps disabled veterans find employment with New York State; and Chapter 479 of 2019, allowing municipalities to extend the current disabled veterans property tax exemption to disabled active duty military members.