This Veterans Day, I was so pleased to witness the outpouring of appreciation for those who have served our nation in the armed forces. The holiday may have passed, but our responsibility to New York’s veterans never ends. I’m doing everything I can to ensure that these brave men and women, who have sacrificed so much to defend our freedoms, have the resources they need to thrive in our community, and lead successful and healthy lives after their service.
It was my privilege to meet two veterans who live right here in the Amherst area and join in the celebration of their 100th birthdays this year. Mr. Clayton Bihl and Mr. Thomas Richards, both veterans of World War II, exemplify the spirit of service and community which motivates so many to join our nation’s armed forces. At the end of their distinguished military careers, Clay and Tom returned to Western New York and continued their contributions to the area we call home. Clay became a teacher, playing an invaluable role in the growth and development of subsequent generations. Tom honed his knack for the arts across several mediums and continues to teach a class on stained glassmaking at the Amherst Center for Senior Services to this day.
Just as veterans like Clay Bihl and Thomas Richards uplifted those around them, it is our responsibility to support veterans as they return home from their service and re-enter civilian life. To this end, I have sponsored and co-sponsored many bills to aid veterans, several of which were signed into law this Veterans Day. These bills include legislation to expand veterans’ tax benefits, notify them about available programs and resources, and broaden career opportunities for veterans returning home.
Many veterans struggle because they are unaware of the support systems available to them. To help keep veterans and members of the workforce informed, I sponsored legislation mandating that the State Department of Labor create a poster with information on veterans’ benefits and services to be displayed prominently in workplaces (Ch. 584 of 2022). Similarly, some veterans encounter difficulties finding a new career after their service has ended. To assist in this transition, I supported the passage of legislation establishing the Veterans Internship Program (V.I.P. NY), which sets aside 10 percent of available internships in the Assembly youth participation program and Senate student program to honorably discharged veterans (Ch. 619 of 2023). The discipline and skills these young professionals developed in the military are invaluable traits that can serve our State Legislature and benefit all New Yorkers.
Recent changes in documentation for service members who complete their tour of duty and subsequently re-enlist made career service members unable to claim a certain veterans’ tax exemption formerly granted to them under state Real Property Tax Law. I co-sponsored and helped enact a law expanding veterans’ tax exemptions to cover those who continue to serve for longer terms (Ch. 611 of 2023). This measure updates the law to keep up with this change, encouraging career members of the military to continue making their homes in New York.
I am confident that these new laws will improve the lives of veterans across our great state. However, we are far from finished. I will continue to serve as a strong voice for our veterans and active service members in Albany. Meeting the needs of veterans is paramount to honor their service to our state and country.From my family to yours, I wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and loved ones. As always, if you have any suggestions, questions, or concerns about this or other community issues, please feel free to contact my office at 716-634-1895 or McMahonK@nyassembly.gov.