2007-11-09 / Columnists

Smith Speaks From Albany

Commentary From The Desk Of Senator Malcolm Smith Minority Leader New York State Senate

MALCOM SMITH MALCOM SMITH With November now upon us, our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and the holidays. However, it is of the utmost importance that we remember Veterans Day and honor Americans who have served our country.

New York in particular has a long history of military service, going back to the Revolutionary War, with men and women in all branches of the armed forces distinguishing themselves in countless ways.

For years I have tried to make sure our community expresses its appreciation through my annual Veterans Breakfast and the "Send a Vet a Valentine" Program, which helps those veterans living at the New York State Nursing Home and VA Hospital Extended Care Center (Harbor Healthcare Center) in St. Albans.

It is also important that we make sure our veterans are aware of the many benefits that they have earned for their service.

Among the benefits veterans may qualify for are: money to help purchase a car or van; free auto registration; Thruway permits; Seeing Eye dogs; annuities for blindness; financial assistance for burials; preference and credits for civil service exams; disability compensation payments; educational programs for children of vets; nursing home care; discounts on hunting and fishing permits; free use of state parks, historic sites and recreational facilities; exemptions from property taxes; survivors' benefits; vocational rehabilitation; and grants to build or adapt their homes to meet a veteran's wheelchair or other needs.

The New York State Division of Veterans Affairs (1-888-VETS-NYS) and the Veterans Administration (www.va.gov) are, respectively, the state and federal agencies whose tasks are to advocate for veterans and make sure they know their rights. If you should have any questions about the benefits mentioned above, please do not hesitate to contact those organizations or my district office at 718-528-4290.

Please know that I will continue to look into ways that we can improve the access veterans have to all of these important programs.

To our heroes who have given so much, be it in the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East or here in the United States, there are no words that can adequately express my gratitude. My constituents and I are deeply appreciative and grateful for your service.

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