Today, Assemblymember Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster), joined by Assemblymember Bill Conrad (D-Tonawanda) and local veterans’ services organizations, called on the Legislature to pass funding and legislation to improve veterans’ services across New York State. They urged lawmakers to fund $7.7 million for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program, which would represent a more than 50 percent increase for the collaborative program that helps veterans transition back into civilian life. The additional funding would allow Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY to better serve local veterans and allow the Dwyer program to expand to every county statewide.
Assemblymembers Wallace and Conrad are also co-sponsoring and advocating for legislation (A8294A) that would elevate the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services to an executive department, on par with agencies such as the Office of Mental Health or Office of the Aging. If enacted, the department would be required to coordinate outreach efforts to veterans and their families to facilitate access to benefits that are available through other state agencies.
“Veterans in New York have earned every one of their benefits, yet currently, only about 17 percent of them actually use those benefits. By creating an executive department for veterans’ services, New York State can make services more accessible and help veterans and their families thrive,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “Likewise, by expanding funding for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support program, we can ensure that all veterans have access to social and support networks to help them successfully transition to civilian life and cope with the injuries and impacts of their service. I thank our veterans’ services agencies and nonprofits for all the work they do to support our service members, and as always, I extend my deepest gratitude to those who risked life and limb in defense of our nation.”
“The funding for the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program has allowed the Veterans One-stop Center to provide peer support services for thousands of veterans in Erie and Niagara counties since its inception,” said Adam Howard, President of Veterans One-stop Center of WNY. “Continued funding for this program is essential to getting veterans engaged with their communities, and we sincerely thank Assemblyperson Wallace for continuing to push this issue to the forefront with the State. Additionally, the transition of the NYS Division of Veterans' Services to a full NYS Department of Veterans' Services is a promising step from the State towards ensuring that veterans in New York have access to every available resource for many years to come.”
“The Dwyer program is instrumental for prior service members transitioning from active duty to civilian life here in Western New York,” said Shawn Lavin, Director of the Erie County Veterans Services Agency. “The peer support program both preserves the camaraderie that many veterans long for after their service is complete and empowers veterans to find passion and purpose.”
“Veterans answer a solemn call to defend our peace and well-being, always risking their own in the process. We cannot overstate our gratitude for their sacrifices, nor should we neglect our duty to help them rebuild their lives once they've left the service,” said Assemblymember Conrad. “As the brother of a veteran seriously injured in Iraq, I know that many former members of our military need aftercare, whether it be social support, career help or further education, or medical treatment. I am humbled and proud to be a co-sponsor of a bill to elevate the Division of Veterans' Services to its rightful designation as a full Department of New York State government, and to join the call for enhanced funding of the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program. Veterans are owed the full weight of our efforts to make their post-military lives as healthy and as fruitful as they can be.”