Both houses pass veteran benefits bill, but will governor sign it?



A bill (S.7160/A.9531) that would extend eligibility for additional credits in the state retirement system to all veterans working for state and local governments has now been passed by both houses after it cleared the Assembly on Wednesday.

But after being vetoed twice by the governor in recent years, its future remains uncertain.

The bill essentially allows honorably discharged veterans working for the state, or in local governments, to purchase years of credit toward their pension. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, would remove the existing date of service limitations and expand eligibility for the veteran’s service credit to otherwise eligible veterans regardless of when they completed their military service.

Under current law, only those veterans who have served in specific military conflicts or during limited time frames are eligible to receive up to an additional three years of service credit in the state pension system. Other provisions of the current limitations have effectively excluded a significant number of female veterans from eligibility. As a result, there was a varied and inconsistent application of the benefit, Paulin says.

“Our veterans take on the enormous risk of injury or even death when they enlist in the military,” said the assemblywoman. “This bill offers service members an incentive to stay here in New York State and continue to make meaningful contributions to our communities.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Michael DenDekker praised the legislation and the veterans it would benefit.

“We owe so much to our veterans for the sacrifices they have made in the service of our country and our state,” Heastie said. “This bill is a testament of our gratitude to these honorable men and women who complete their military duties and return home to continue their leadership in our communities and in our public workforce.”

“For too long, New York’s pension system has not been up to par with the rest of the country in regards to veterans,” DenDekker said. “This legislation will correct that injustice, and is an important step towards ensuring that veterans receive the full benefits that they deserve, regardless of when or where he or she served.”

The Senate bill is sponsored by Bill Larkin, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army who retired as a lieutenant colonel, and was passed on May 5.

The bill was vetoed in 2014 and 2015 because the governor said the proposal requires a substantial funding source, and therefore, should be negotiated as part of the budget.