News from the
New York State Assembly

Veterans’ Affairs

Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz
Message from the Chair

In January 2006, I had the honor of being named the fourth chairman of the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs by Speaker Sheldon Silver. I have had a long-standing interest in the issues addressed by this committee. While a student at the University of Puerto Rico, I was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and I served in the United States Army from 1986 to 1988. I have many family members in the military, including my son, who is serving his second tour of duty as an officer in Iraq.

The Committee had a successful year in 2006. Eleven bills passed both houses of the Legislature, including the first passage of a resolution to amend the State constitution. (A proposed amendment must be passed by two successively elected legislatures before it appears on the ballot for voter approval.)

photo The New York State Assembly’s Women Veterans Recognition Day is an annual event which spotlights the accomplishments of women who have served in the US Armed Forces. The 2006 honorees included: Dawn Scott; Major Kathy Dean; Specialist Naida LaBorde; Sgt. Katie McGovern and Christine Eppelmann.

In the coming months, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee will be developing legislative ideas for the 2007 Legislative Session. One of our top priorities will be the improvement of services to disabled and homeless veterans.

Felix W. Ortiz, Chair
Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Felix W. Ortiz, Chair • September 2006

Legislative Highlights

Agent Orange Extender
Legislation was signed into law to extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits relating to exposure to phenoxy herbicide (Agent Orange) by armed forces personnel who served in Indo-China. (Chapter 39 of the Laws of 2006/Ortiz)

photo New York State Assemblymembers John J. McEneny, Felix W. Ortiz and Darrel J. Aubertine take an in-depth tour aboard the U.S.S. Slater DE 766 moored on the Hudson River in Albany. Leading the tour was Tim Rizzuto, the ship’s superintendent.

Military Health
Many of the soldiers returning from active combat zones are experiencing adverse health effects that may be caused by exposure to toxic materials or harmful physical agents, such as depleted uranium. Legislation (A.9116-B, Dinowitz) passed both houses of the Legislature to require the Adjutant General and the State Director of the Division of Veterans’ Affairs to assist any member of the National Guard or veteran who served in the Persian Gulf in efforts to obtain federal treatment services for such health problems. The legislation also requires the Adjutant General to report to the Senate and Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committees on the scope and adequacy of training received by members of the New York National Guard regarding the detection and recognition of exposure to toxic materials during military service and the cost of adding predeployment training to address potential exposure to depleted uranium and other toxic substances. The bill also adds Gulf War Syndromes, toxic materials, and harmful physical agents such as depleted uranium to the list of health issues the Department of Health must address in their veterans health care information program and creates a task force on health problems due to military service to study the health effects of exposure to toxic materials or harmful physical agents.

This proposal was the subject of a roundtable discussion held in New York City earlier this year. The panelists included the United States Army’s expert on depleted uranium, the person in charge of deployment health at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and a physicist from the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, representing the Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

Congressional Medal of Honor Monument
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor that an individual can earn while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. The history of the award and its recipients is representative of the sacrifices made by Americans to defend, protect, and preserve the freedoms we cherish. There have been over 650 recipients of this medal that lived in New York State. The Legislature passed a bill to create a monument dedicated to the memory of all New York residents who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. This monument will be erected in the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza or Capitol Park in the City of Albany. (A.11651, Ortiz)

Constitutional Amendment
The Legislature passed an amendment to remove from the State constitution the requirement that states a veteran who was disabled in the performance of duty in any war must receive disability payments from the United States Veterans Administration in order to qualify for additional civil service points and to allow for the veteran to qualify for additional civil service points. The amendment would allow the veteran to qualify for additional civil service points if he or she has been certified as disabled. The amendment must be passed a second time during a legislative session convening after the election of members of the Legislature in 2006 in order to be sent to the voters for approval. (A.9957, Ortiz)

Vietnam War Dates
This measure will change the date when the Vietnam war is deemed to have commenced from December 22, 1961, to February 28, 1961, in various sections of state law. In 1996, the federal government changed the date to February 28, 1961. The date grants recognition of wartime service to veterans who served in Vietnam when American advisers began accompanying South Vietnamese troops. These benefits are one way of saying thanks to those who risked their lives to answer the call of duty. (Chapter 179 of the Laws of 2006/Aubertine)

photo Assemblymembers Jeffrey Dinowitz and Felix W. Ortiz, Chair of the New York State Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee, lead a roundtable discussion on the effects of depleted uranium on returning veterans who served in the Persian Gulf area.

Vietnam Veterans Tuition Awards Program...
...and Persian Gulf Veterans Tuition Awards Program Extension
This measure will extend for two years the time for Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan veterans to apply to NYSHESC for certain tuition awards for veterans enrolled in approved undergraduate or graduate programs at degree granting institutions and approved vocational training programs. (Chapter 208 of the Laws of 2006)

Transfer of the Real Property Tax Exemption... Cases of Veterans Moving Within the Same Municipality
This bill would authorize municipalities to adopt a local law or ordinance allowing the assessor to transfer and prorate a real property tax exemption granted a veteran when such veteran sells the property receiving the exemption and purchases property within the same municipality. This bill passed both house of the Legislature and is awaiting action by the Governor. (A.974, McEneny)

Did You Know?
New York State has several veterans’ memorials located at the Empire State Plaza. They include: statue of General Philip Henry Sheridan; New York State Vietnam Memorial; New York State Korean War Veterans Memorial; New York State Women Veterans Memorial; and the New York State World War II Memorial.
Veteran-Related Bills from Other Committees

Gift Shop Located in A NYS Veterans’ Home
This proposal exempts from sales and compensating use taxes sales receipts in gift shops located in the New York State veterans’ nursing homes. (Chapter 296 of the Laws of 2006/Towns)

Gold Star Mothers Day
This legislation adds a day honoring American Gold Star Mothers to the list of days of commemoration in the State of New York. The designated day would be the last Sunday in September. Gold Star Mothers have lost a son or daughter during wars and armed conflicts or while in service to our country. The passage of this law is a way of showing our support for the families who have suffered loss on behalf of our country. (Chapter 48 of the Laws of 2006/Carrozza)

Small-and-Medium Sized Business Relief
The law provides financial assistance to small and medium sized businesses that have been adversely affected by the loss of an owner, manager, or key employee who has been called to active military duty. (Chapter 164 of the Laws of 2006/Sweeney)

Military Spouse Ten Days Leave
This measure provides that spouses of members of the United States National Guard and reservists who have been deployed during a period of military conflict shall be allowed up to ten days unpaid leave from their employment if the employer has twenty or more employees at one or more sites. (Chapter 495 of the Laws of 2006/Cusick)

Pictured with Chairman Ortiz are cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point, who each year are honored by members of the New York State Legislature.

Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz
NYS Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee • Room 841 LOB • Albany, NY 12248
518.455.5821 •

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