Assemblyman Matt Slater (R,C-Yorktown) joined Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne, Putnam County Sheriff Kevin McConville, Megan Castellano and Marine Corps Veteran Jack Duncan from Guardian Revival, local veterans and veteran advocacy groups at the Mahopac VFW today to oppose Gov. Hochul’s proposed cuts to numerous veterans’ programs from the 2023-24 State Budget.
“A $227 billion budget, with billions of dollars in new funding, and the governor has proposed cutting millions of dollars that support our brave veterans and servicemembers. It is egregious that Gov. Hochul does not put veterans first,” Slater said. “If you talk to a lot of veterans, they will tell you that the services in our state are subpar, and that’s unacceptable. We not only reject the governor’s proposal, but we also need to do more for our valiant veterans.”
The restoration of these cuts has support from both parties in Albany. Slater recently signed onto letters to the governor from Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre, chair of the Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Assemblyman Chris Burdick, both Majority, calling for a restoration of the proposed cuts.
“With some of the programs Assemblyman Slater was talking about brings the ability to fund some of our non-profit veterans’ organizations, like our VFWs or American Legions, with capital improvements. There are a number of examples in Putnam County where our local veterans’ organizations could have benefitted from these types of programs and these dollars. I’m thankful to Assemblyman Matt Slater for leading the charge on this and working with a bipartisan coalition,” said Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne.
“The people who are working for us are veterans, they are Guardians, and we want to make sure we are paying them a living wage because that’s what they deserve. I have been speaking to a Guardian who I’m working with who was previously suicidal that told me he’d rather go on hikes than spend time at the bar, which is a wonderful thing I hope can continue. I hope everyone will join us in fighting these cuts,” said Megan Castellano, chief of staff at Guardian Revival.
“I’ve been working on veterans’ issues since 1985 and, every year, we have to go to Albany and Washington and beg for funding when we shouldn’t have to. We went and served our country. Why are we begging to be taken care of and helped? Some of us have regular wounds, some of us have hidden wounds. We shouldn’t have to beg for help, that has to change,” said Karl Rhode, Director of the Putnam County Veterans’ Service Agency.
Just this week, a Putnam County veteran who served as an Army Ranger and suffers from PTSD was unable to access adequate mental and physical health care, despite pleading with health care providers that he was suicidal. His heartbreaking story reminds us of the 22 veterans on average per day who take their own lives.
Speaking on the issue, Putnam County Sheriff Kevin McConville said, “This was a horrific situation that probably would’ve ended horribly had not everyone who intervened. This veteran was denied services and treatment at a number of facilities. He was declared fine, however, he did not stop indicating that he was going to perform self-harm and harm to other individuals. Assemblyman Slater, thank you for leading this charge along with your colleagues in Albany. You (veterans) deserve better, you’ve earned better, you should receive better.”
The governor has proposed removing the funding for 17 veterans’ programs that were added by the Legislature last year, totaling $2.6 million. A full list of the cuts are below:
$500,000 – New York State Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program
$405,000 – Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project
$325,000 – Clear Path for Veterans
$220,000 – New York State Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program – Long Island
$200,000 – Helmets-to-Hardhats
$150,000 – Sage Veterans’ Project
$125,000 – North Country Veterans Association
$125,000 – Department of New York Veterans of Foreign Wars of United States, Inc.
$200,000 – Legal Services of NYC Veterans Justice Project
$150,000 – Outdoor RX
$100,000 – American Legion Dunbar Post 1642
$100,000 – Vietnam Veterans of America – New York State Council
$10,000 – John Venditti War Veterans Post 1
$10,000 – Rome Veterans’ Park
The above information was previously distributed and made public for immediate release by the New York State Assembly.