Press Release

Higgins, Schumer, Gillibrand & Slaughter Ask VA to Establish Job Center for Disabled Vets in Buffalo

May 5, 2009

Congressman Brian Higgins, Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary for Veterans Affairs (VA) calling for the establishment of the nation’s first Regional Job Training and Placement Center at Buffalo’s Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted, M.D. Center for the Visually Impaired.

“We, as a nation, have an obligation and solemn duty to provide all available resources to our veterans who were injured while defending our country,” said Schumer.  “Buffalo’s outstanding Olmsted Center for Sight has been helping the visually impaired for more than a century, and it would be a natural partner for the nation’s first job center for disabled veterans.”

“This proposal would provide service-injured veterans with a critical link to a state-of-the-art employment training program,” said Congressman Higgins.  “Our veterans, who have made supreme sacrifices, deserve the best opportunities for success as they return to civilian life and the program offered right here in Buffalo by the Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired has an impressive track record of producing results.”

“During these tough economic times, it is critical that we provide additional job assistance for all veterans, especially the thousands of New York veterans who are visually impaired,” said Senator Gillibrand. “While we have a moral responsibility to provide these vets with economic opportunity, this investment would certainly be a win-win for all of us.  The work ethic and character of these veterans will make them some of the most productive and successful members of our workforce, aiding our economic recovery over the long term.”

“This proposed initiative would enable our veterans who have been injured in the line of duty to take advantage of an excellent job training program.” said Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter.  “Our service men and women make extraordinary sacrifices for our nation and deserve access to the best programs, training, and tools for success when they return home. The Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired can provide just that.”

For the last ten years, the Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired has run the National Statler Center; a program designed to meet a critical need to create career opportunities for blind and physically challenged adults.  The Center’s rigorous ten-week program draws students from throughout the world and has job placement rate of 85%.

“This is about doing the right thing as a nation and providing people with help as they return to the mainstream,” said Ronald Maier, President of the Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired.

Higgins, Schumer, Gillibrand & Slaughter argue that the expertise available through Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired paired with the resources of the VA Western New York Healthcare System would provide sight impaired and disabled veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with unparalleled training and support necessary to provide new workplace opportunities.

There are more than 165,000 blind or visually impaired veterans. About 13 percent of the evacuated wounded service members in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered a serious eye injury of one type or another.

Through this program veterans would be provided with classroom instruction, technology training, job readiness skills and job placement assistance.  A cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the Center found the National Statler Center model produces a $51 return for every dollar invested.  The Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired has served the needs of the blind and visually impaired in Western New York for over 100 years.