Friday, November 11, 2011

Bronx pols honor Veterans Day

If you're hankering to celebrate veterans in the Bronx, you can find information here for an event Sunday in Van Cortlandt Park.

Other than that, I wanted to pass along messages from the local elected officials.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera issued the following statement today in honor of Veterans Day and announced that he is introducing legislation that will do a better job of matching veterans with services that they are entitled to.

Rep. Eliot Engel highlighted multiple bills he has sponsored, including one that streamlines the ability for veterans to get compensation for disabled vets.

Jump below for the statements. More coming when/if I receive them.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera:

“Veterans Day is a reminder of how important it is that each and every American take the time to thank the men and women who have served in uniform that live in our communities and in our neighborhoods.  I would like to thank those Bronxites who have risked their lives to defend our country and their families who have sacrificed so much in the process.

"Unfortunately, too many veterans are now returning from service and finding it difficult to find work and difficult to get by during tough economic times. Many veterans here in the Bronx and throughout the state are unaware of programs and benefits that are owed to them for their service.

"That is why I am introducing legislation called VetsConnect that will add questions regarding military service to those one fills out in order to obtain or renew a state I.D. In addition to continuing to fulfill our obligation to veterans that seek services out, I believe New York State can and should do a better job of identifying veterans and ensuring they are receiving benefits owed to them and aware of opportunities and services available to them. This simple change to a form that so many New Yorkers are already filling out has the ability to give us more accurate information and would allow New York State to more effectively reach out to veterans who may be unaware of their benefits.”

Rep. Eliot Engel:

Dear Friends,

On this Veterans Day, it is important to remember that those willing to give up their lives in the defense of our great nation are not strangers. These brave men and women are our neighbors and friends, our co-workers, bosses and employees. This year, let us not simply celebrate the idea of Veterans Day. Instead, let’s recognize the individual courage and struggles of those who answered the call, and continue to symbolize the best this country has to offer.
Of the over 23 million former service members living in the United States today, over 1 million reside in the State of New York. Closer to home, according to a 2007 Veterans Affairs survey, 28,000 Veterans currently live in New York’s 17th District. These heroes have fought for our country, defending the freedeoms we enjoy every day.  Unfortunately, veterans often do not receive the recognition or attention they deserve. Sadly, many veterans struggle to get by after laying their lives on the line.
  • In 2010, the VA provided health care to over 5 million veterans.
  • According to the 2010 National Survey of Veterans, over 4 million Veterans currently struggle with a service-related disability, of which 3 million receive monthly disability payments from the VA. Over 1 million of those with payments have had or are currently having trouble finding work due to their service-related disability.
Many of those injured in the line of duty are not always visibly disabled. From 2006-10, the number of returning veterans with mental illness has more than quadrupled. In 2010 alone, 1.2 million were treated by the VA for mental health issues caused by their time in service. Although many who receive treatment are able to fully integrate back into civilian society, for others the case is tragically different.  One painful, and oftentimes overlooked, statistic is the rising rate of suicide among veterans.
  • Each year, over 6,500 veterans take their own lives, greater than those who are lost in the line of duty.
  • An average of 18 former service men and women commit suicide every day
This statistic is both tragic and unacceptable. I wrote to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations, asking the committee to keep a $40 million increase in the VA’s budget to combat the rising trend. Funding from this increase would help diagnose those coming back from active duty at risk and to assist in their recovery.  In addition, I have been working tirelessly on a variety of projects to recognize and support our veterans.
  • I cosponsored H.R. 2530 to provide flexibility in the issuance of grants to nursing homes that give service to veterans
  • I cosponsored H.R. 333, the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act, to eliminate hurdles facing veterans in attaining compensation.
  • I cosponsored H.R. 2559, the Helping Homeless Heroes Act, to help house or growing number of homeless veterans. 
  • I voted for a Cost Of Living (COLA) increase for disabled veterans to ensure they maintain a decent quality of life. 
At this time of the year, we all honor those who have made such great sacrifices and continue to answer the call to our nation’s time of need.  Our whole nation thanks our service men and women for their sacrifice. I will continue to fight for veterans to ensure we fulfill our commitment to them, to repay their commitment to us.


Eliot L. Engel

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