SENATOR JOE ROBACH WELCOMES CADETS AND VETERANS FROM WEST POINT TO ALBANY

Joe Robach and the New York State Senate recently welcomed cadets, staff and veterans from the United States Military Academy at West Point as part of an annual day of recognition. In honor of the celebration, the Senate and Joe Robach passed several bills focusing on helping veterans obtain jobs and protect their rights.

West Point Day provides an opportunity for the Legislature to meet distinguished cadets and officers from the Military Academy and show appreciation for their service. The historic educational institution perched on the Hudson River is a source of tremendous pride for New Yorkers, and its graduates have gone on to become presidents and our nation’s top military leaders. The Senate adopted a resolution recognizing West Point’s contributions to our state and nation and acted on legislation focused on veterans’ issues.

A bill (S.4262), supported by Joe Robach, allows veterans who have received combat decorations to be provided with additional credit towards civil service employment was passed by the Senate on West Point day. This would reward those who acted bravely as they seek to reenter the job market.

Two other pieces of legislation were also passed on West Point Day which seek to provide veterans with additional credit towards civil service exams. Legislation (S.1311), supported by Joe Robach, allows veterans to receive additional civil service credit if they become classified as a veteran with a disability after taking the exam. Legislation (S.3406) allows qualified veterans to add veterans’ credits to civil service competitive examination scores at any point prior to the expiration of the eligible list, including those examinations for appointments and promotions to the state police.

West Point Day is a way for Senators, like Joe Robach, to thank cadets and veterans for their tremendous service.  Each of these Cadets will soon lead young men and women from all corners of the country and our trust as a nation and the trust of parents around the country will soon be squarely on their shoulders. West Point, like all the service academies, represents the best of America. Cadets come in from every sector of American life, every religion, every race and every region. They share every challenging day from that day forward, their hair is shaved, and their uniforms are the same. From the very day they walk through the door they are simply judged upon the content of their character and their ability. West Point represents the very essence of American upward mobility and opportunity.

The bills will be sent to the Assembly for consideration.  For more information, contact the office of Joe Robach.

JOE ROBACH HONORS FEDELE BROTHERS IN VETERANS HALL OF FAME

Joe Robach recently honored the Fedele brothers as nominees for the Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame.  The New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame was created to honor and recognize outstanding veterans from the Empire State who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life. Their meritorious service to our nation deserves the special recognition that only a Hall of Fame can provide, as a fitting expression of our gratitude and admiration.

Joe Robach strongly believes that the Fedele family, full of so many veterans, embodies the true American spirit.  The Fedele family, like millions of other American families, responded to their country’s needs during World War II. Except that, unlike every other family, the Fedeles sent eight brothers off to war. This was the record for the most men from one family to serve in a foreign war at the same time.

The brothers, ranging in age from 17 to 37, served in nearly every branch of the armed forces: Army, Navy, Marines and Air Corps. They served in Africa, Europe and the Pacific. For their service, they won many ribbons, citations and medals including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. One brother was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked; and oddly, a few of the brothers ran into each other during the war. One pair met in Africa and the other pair on Iwo Jima. Remarkably, all of the brothers returned home alive and well; although, one was wounded by machine-gun fire on Okinawa and another one suffered injury in an airplane crash during training.

While eight sons of Philip and Angelina Fedele left home to serve their country, two others worked defense related jobs. The youngest, only 14 at the time, later served in the Korean War along with two of his older World War II brothers.

Joe Robach was proud to nominate the Fedele brothers as his nominee of Veterans Hall of Fame.  For more information on the Veterans Hall of Fame, please contact the office of Joe Robach.

JOE ROBACH AND SENATE PROTECT VETERAN FUNERALS

Joe Robach of Rochester and the New York State Senate gave final legislative approval last year to two measures that offer additional buffers and restrictions for protests or demonstrations seeking to disrupt military/ veteran funerals, burials or memorial services. The new law balances the constitutional right of free speech with the ability of families to respectfully mourn the individuals who gave their lives in service to our country.

This very important legislation protects our future Gold Star families by ensuring dignity, respect and honor for our fallen military veterans. Joe Robach believes that exercising free speech is an American right, but it is a tremendous misuse of that freedom to use the funerals of our veterans as a vehicle for protests that do nothing but add to the grief and sorrow of military families.  Grieving military families shouldn’t be the target of a political demonstration.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision recognized that persons who protest at funerals of military personnel have constitutional rights, but also that states have a compelling interest in protecting the family and friends of deceased military personnel while they are mourning at such events. This prompted the Senate to propose the Specialist Thomas J. Wilwerth Military Dignity Act. Specialist Wilwerth was an Iraq War Veteran who lost his life in combat in 2006.   Soon a companion bill was introduced which was designed to ensure that military families already reeling from grief are not faced with insults and protests, and both bills were passed by the Senate on March 14, 2011. The bills were amended and passed the Assembly on June 6, 2011.

S.3901A, supported by Joe Robach, requires the development and implementation of a permit process for demonstrations at veteran and veteran family member funerals, and authorizes the imposition of fines for failure to comply with the permit provisions.

S.5605, supported of Joe Robach, triples the buffer zone distance for protests around a religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service from 100 feet to 300 feet.

Both bills were signed by the Governor.  For more information, contact the office of Joe Robach.

JOE ROBACH SUPPORTS LEGISLATION TO HELP DISABLED VETERANS

Joe Robach and the Senate passed legislation (S.2423) recently that would give greater access to state contracts to veterans who were disabled during their service. 

This bill would codify for New York an identical and highly successful program adopted for federal contracting.  Given the increase in the number of veterans and disabled veterans due to recent overseas conflicts, this bill, supported by Joe Robach, would provide a small measure of recognition that this group of selfless men and women deserve.

Servicemen and women who are injured during their service deserve our full support once they return to our communities.  Joe Robach strongly believes that disabled veterans deserve an opportunity to participate in obtaining contracts with state agencies for their small businesses.

Specifically, the bill would require that state agencies provide the opportunity for service-disabled veterans’ businesses to obtain state contracts.  It would establish a goal of having small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans to comprise a minimum of 3 percent of the agency’s contracts.  The bill also details the implementation and reporting standards to help state agencies comply with the requirement, and task various commissioners, deputy commissioners, and the Attorney General with supporting the implementation of this preference.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.  Should you have additional questions about this legislation or any other state sponsored veterans initiative, contact Joe Robach’s office.

JOE ROBACH & SENATE PASSES LEGISLATION TO PROTECT GRAVES OF CIVIL WAR VETERANS

Joe Robach and the New York State Senate passed legislation recently that would prohibit the unauthorized sale of veteran cemetery markers that are over 75 years old, and would create the new crime of desecration of a veteran cemetery plot, grave or burial place.

These bills, supported by Joe Robach, continue the Senate’s commitment to maintain the dignity of veterans’ cemeteries and commemorative property. Joe Robach and the Senate passed a bill (S.1504) that would prohibit the unauthorized sale of veteran’s commemorative cemetery markers, flag holders, monuments, statues or other physical memorabilia that are over 75 years old.  The bill addresses a problem first noted by the New York Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. According to the organization, cemetery corporations were selling valuable antique cemetery markers, statues, and monuments from the Civil War era. These monuments were erected over a century ago by Civil War veterans groups to commemorate the sacrifices of their comrades-in-arms.

The bill aims to ensure that these Civil War monuments remain where they were originally placed, allowing them to continue to honor the memory of Civil War veterans, rather than be sold off for profit. In addition, Joe Robach and the Senate passed a bill (S.1728) which would create the crime of “Cemetery Desecration of a Veteran,” a Class E felony. Currently, there is no law that specifically protects veteran grave sites. The bill also provides that a person convicted of desecrating a veteran’s cemetery can be sentenced to community service at desecrated cemeteries as a condition for probation or conditional release.

The bills were sent to the Assembly.   For more information on these bills or any other veteran initiative, contact Joe Robach’s office.

 

JOE ROBACH PROVIDES VETERANS AND RESIDENTS WITH THE HISTORY AND CARE FOR OUR FLAG

Joe Robach knows the importance of the United States flag to Americans and to our veterans.  Any time our military has fought on foreign soil, Americans have displayed the flag as an important way for those of us at home to express our support and prayers for the courageous young women and men serving our country. 

Our American Flag has long exemplified the spirit of those who lost their lives in battle, as well as those who fought valiantly and survived. It stands for all our ancestors who worked, saved and sacrificed at home to raise their families in such a strong, free and prosperous land.  Joe Robach knows that it stands for the freedom that so many of our veterans have fought to protect. 

On behalf of veterans who have worked so hard to defend it, Joe Robach would like to remind residents of a few facts about the US flag:
It is appropriate to salute the flag when: it is passing in a parade; during a ceremony when it is being hoisted or lowered; when the National Anthem is playing and it is displayed; during the Pledge of Allegiance.

The flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs on all days that weather permits.  The flag should be flown especially on national and state holidays and other days that may be proclaimed by the President of the United States.  The US flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated.  Always hoist the flag briskly and lower it ceremoniously. 

Individuals should never: show disrespect to the flag in anyway; dip the US flag to any person or thing; allow the US flag to touch anything beneath it; place anything on the US flag; wear the US flag as apparel. 

For more information about proper flag protocol or anything pertaining to veterans, please contact Joe Robach’s office.

JOE ROBACH PROVIDES INFORMATION ON STATE VETERAN BENEFITS

If you are a veteran who has been recently discharged from service, Joe Robach wants to make sure that you know that there are several important measures you need to follow to ensure that you receive all the benefits that you are entitled to.   First you need to secure your discharge certificate – DD Form 214.  If you need help obtaining your DD Form 214, contact the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs at (888) VetsNYS or by email DVAInfo@veterans.ny.gov.  Veterans also need to enroll in VA health care within your first 12 months from separation and visit your nearest New York State Veterans Counselor or County Veteran Service Agency.

Joe Robach and the Senate are proud of our brave veterans and have tried to make New York State as veteran friendly as possible.  To this end, the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs is proud to provide veterans and their eligible spouses with One-Stop Career Centers.  These centers will assist veterans in: career counseling; skills assessment; job search assistance; resume preparation; information on civil service positions; and referrals to other agencies that provide services to veterans.   There are also several education assistance opportunities for veterans through the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs.  Benefits include: veteran friendly campuses; post 9/11 GI bill; Montgomery GI bill; Veterans’ Tuition Awards; and Vocational Rehabilitation to assist those with service related disabilities.
Veterans’ health benefits are administered by the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  However, there are several additional benefits New York State offers only to veterans and disabled veterans, including reduced costs for hunting and fishing licenses, Disabled Veterans’ EZPass program, Operation Recognition and others. 

Joe Robach likes to encourage veterans to take advantage of the many benefits provided by New York State.  To learn more about what New York State has to offer veterans and their families, you can contact Joe Robach’s office.

JOE ROBACH ADVOCATING TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR VETERANS TO PURSUE A COLLEGE EDUCATION IN NEW YORK

Joe Robach values our veterans and wants to make sure that if they want to pursue a higher education, New York State makes it easy for them to do so.

Under current law, after serving in active duty, our soldiers who choose to come to New York State to study at State University of New York (SUNY) colleges are charged out-of-state tuition. This often results in significant tuition bills, as the federal GI bill does not fully cover the cost of out-of-state SUNY tuition.  As many know, the GI bill was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s).    Benefits included low-cost mortgages, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation.  The GI still exists today and offers tuition benefits for our veterans.

To remedy this problem, Joe Robach sponsors an education bill that will allow any veteran and/or someone who has served in active duty in the United States military to pursue an education in New York by allowing them to attend SUNY colleges and universities as a resident of the State of the New York; thereby, waiving the residency requirements. The men and women who provide honorable service to our country should be able to attend college here in New York without worrying about extra cost that might fall to them because they are not yet a resident. Joe Robach believes that New York should be encouraging our service men and women to come our State, get an education at our colleges and universities and start their future here.

Joe Robach’s bill is currently pending in the Senate’s Committee on Higher Education.  For more information on legislation related to education or to veteran affairs, contact Joe Robach’s office.