Bills on the Move: Parity for Vietnam Vets

ALBANY, NY – On March 29th, 1973, the Vietnam War drew to a close, and since then New York has commemorated ‘Vietnam Veterans Day’ and ‘Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day’ on March 29th and March 30th, respectively. This week, timed to the observance of these sacred days, New York State Senator Terrence Murphy has passed his bill granting certain benefits and honoraria to the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) which they have never before received.

“With dozens of chapters in New York, VVA does receive some of the benefits available to other veterans’ organizations, such as tax exemptions and the ability to obtain a liquor license, yet there are other privileges to which VVA should be entitled but does not receive,” Senator Murphy said. “We waited too long to acknowledge and honor the service and sacrifice of these heroes. That changes today.”

Ned Foote, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, New York State Council, said “We thank Senator Murphy and the Senate for passing this bill that holds the Vietnam Veterans of America in the same category of the more traditional Veteran organizations in New York State. To have this accomplished in time for Vietnam Veterans Day is a great way to remember what the Vietnam Veterans did for our country and what we have done in whatever rolls we played in life as we age more every day.”

The bill authored by Senator Murphy, Senate Bill S4283, declares VVA to be a benevolent order and grants it various benefits that are available to other veterans’ organizations in New York State, such as the storage of records, flags, relics, and other memorabilia for prominent display within the hallowed halls of state capitol. It passed unanimously. Specifically, the bill will:
Add the Vietnam Veterans of America to the list of organizations contained within the benevolent orders law, conferring the rights and privileges available under that law;
Require the state commissioner of general services to set aside suitably furnished space in the capital for quarters of the VVA for the preservation of its records, a benefit that was previously available only to the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars;
Allow VVA to host meetings in National Guard armories, like other veterans’ organizations;
Fix various areas of the general municipal law and the general city law where VVA was omitted, allowing them to be designated as the veterans’ organization responsible for the observance of Memorial and Veterans Day parades and ceremonies; and
Authorize the state bureau of war records to preserve and complete the records and relics of VVA to make as complete as possible the history and statistics of the wartime service of New York State residents.

Additionally, while the bill grants several new rights and privileges, it makes other technical corrections to stipulate VVA in certain areas of law where the organization qualified for benefits, but was not specifically mentioned alongside other specified veterans organizations, which Murphy considered to be an unintentional slight to a generation of veterans. “While the Vietnam War was a divisive issue, politics should never have caused the patriotic service of the soldiers of our state to go unrecognized,” Senator Murphy said.

The bill now heads to the Assembly for passage, where it is sponsored by Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky and cosponsored by Assemblyman Mike DenDekker, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. It has already moved past the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee.

“The brave veterans who served in Vietnam sacrificed so much for our country, and now it’s time for us to support them,” Assemblyman Kaminsky said. “Vietnam Veterans of America provides invaluable resources to our veterans, and it deserves the same benefits as other similar organizations in our state. I am pleased that this bill has passed the Veterans’ Affairs committee of the Assembly and look forward to the floor vote.”

Senator Murphy said his legislation would ensure that VVA organizations are afforded the same benefits as other veterans’ organizations in New York State so they can better support the next generation of America’s war veterans and continue to serve our communities. This was his second piece of legislation to successfully pass the Senate.

Author: Harlem Valley News