"Our nation’s veterans and active duty military have sacrificed for all of us. They deserve the very best opportunities and benefits we can provide." - Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator
New York is home to more than one million men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Gillibrand is working hard to improve the lives of the millions of Americans currently serving in our military and our veterans. Gillibrand has championed an agenda to improve access to benefits for our veterans and ensure that when active duty servicemembers return home, there are more job opportunities available to them, and the educational and training tools needed for success in the private sector are easily accessible.
Ensuring Educational Opportunities For Our Veterans
Having fought for passage of the new Post 9/11 GI bill during her time in the House of Representatives, Senator Gillibrand continued the fight in the Senate by helping to pass legislation to expand the GI bill to better cover community college and apprenticeship training. Now, she is working on the Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act that would ensure educational institutions receiving assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense meet common sense requirements, including making sure that potential students receive critical information.
Putting American Heroes Back To Work
Too many of America’s veterans are unable to find a job when they get home. Senator Gillibrand has held roundtables all across New York State with local business organizations and area veterans’ organizations to develop a strategy to link veterans with education, training and jobs. Senator Gillibrand has been a strong advocate for legislation to improve employment opportunities for returning veterans, and helped pass the VOW to Hire Heroes Act which gives employers a tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed veterans. Furthermore, the law improved current benefits for veterans, including making the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) mandatory, providing returning troops with career counseling, and equipping them with better job search skills. The law also provides additional training benefits for disabled veterans through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.
Since the VOW to Hire Heroes Act was passed, Senator Gillibrand is working to further strengthen the Transition Assistance Program by enabling veteransto retake the program at a later date and make the program available at additional locations away from Department of Defense facilities.
Protecting Vietnam Veterans Exposed To Agent Orange
One of the most tragic legacies of the War in Vietnam is the thousands of American servicemembers that were diagnosed with cancer, heart disease and other illnesses because of exposure to toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, while many Vietnam veterans received automatic coverage and compensation for these illnesses as a result of exposure to Agent Orange, Navy veterans who served in the waters off shore of Vietnam have been denied these same hard earned benefits. Senator Gillibrand has introduced the Agent Orange Equity Act, which would provide presumptive coverage to all veterans who served in the territorial waters of Vietnam and may have been exposed to Agent Orange, for illnesses linked to that chemical such as leukemia, heart disease and lymphoma.
Ensuring Access To Benefits
The transition from Active Duty member to retired veteran can be confusing and complicated. As thousands of men and women return from service overseas, it is vital that the process be easy and that servicemembers have access to all of the benefits they have earned. Unfortunately, for too manyveterans, receiving the VA benefits they deserve is a frustrating and exhausting process, requiring them to onerously document their eligibility and prove that they have earned the benefits they’re entitled to.
To help address this challenge, Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation to force the VA to take the initiative and actively reach out to veterans to ensure they are accessing their benefits. The Providing Real Outreach to Veterans Act (or PRO-Vets) would streamline the application process for VA benefits to ensure that the Department of Defense is providing information on exiting servicemember’s service and medical history, which would then be used by the VA to pro-actively reach out to veterans and inform them of benefits that should be available to them. Additionally, the legislation would ensure that exiting veterans are automatically enrolled in the VA healthcare they are entitled to when they exit military service. This would mean fewer veterans fall through the bureaucratic cracks and changing the way the VA interacts with incoming veterans.
Senator Gillibrand is also actively working to connect veterans with resources and services in their area, by offering a page on her website with a comprehensive index of veterans’ services across New York State. The online tool aims to support those that serve and have served us bravely by locally equipping them with federal resources across a wide range of topics including federal job listings, career counseling, education benefits and scholarships, small business grants, housing assistance, health services, resources for women veterans, wounded warriors, and family and caregiver assistance. To assist New York military servicemen and women, veterans, and their families, Senator Gillibrand’s site maps resources and contacts in each of New York’s 62 Counties. Click here to visit the Veteran’s Resources page.