Governor Kathy Hochul took the opportunity on Veterans Day Thursday to ink a dozen bills into law aimed at supporting those who served in the Armed Forces, and their families.
The package of legislation includes a broader definition of a Vietnam War veteran, expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits and in-state tuition at public colleges, and creates a new advisory committee on women veterans.
“Our active service members and veterans have served a high calling to protect our democracy and freedoms, and now it is our turn to support them and their families,” said Hochul in a statement. “By signing these bills into law today, we are taking steps to ensure veterans and active duty military members have the benefits and resources they need, and the flexibility their circumstances require, to best take care of themselves and their families. New York’s veterans stood up for us, and we will continue to stand by them.”
The first new law changes turns back the clock on the state-recognized beginning of the Vietnam War from Feb. 28, 1961 to Nov. 1, 1955, acknowledging American military presence starting on the earlier date and ensuring all US veterans of that conflict get credit and recognition for their service, according to Hochul’s office.
President Dwight Eisenhower sent military advisors to South Vietnam in 1955, but it wasn’t until 1961 when President John F. Kennedy deployed hundreds more troops to fight the communist forces in the Southeast Asian conflict.
Another law unlocks unemployment benefits for people who quit their jobs to accompany a spouse who is subject to a military transfer.
Two more pieces of legislation create a 12-member women veterans advisory committee to advocate for female veterans in the state’s Division of Veterans’ Services, and establish a task force to make policy recommendations to the legislature on how to help vets find jobs.
Spouses and children of active duty service members can keep in-state tuition at CUNY and SUNY after they’re stationed in the Empire State.
The laws also require veterans information about benefits if they’re applying for renewing a driver’s license or if they are admitted to nursing homes, homeless shelters, and assisted living facilities.
“As the daughter and sister of veterans, I have a special spot in my heart for all veterans,” said state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement. “Easing veterans’ transition back to civilian life is a top priority for the Senate Democratic Majority, and this set of bills will advance that mission.”