Lancman pushes pro-veteran agenda in bid for House

Lancman pushes pro-veteran agenda in bid for House
Photo by Phil Corso
By Phil Corso

Calling on real-life experiences, state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) outlined a pro-veterans agenda Monday as part of his bid for New York’s 6th Congressional District.

Lancman, a former platoon leader in the state’s 42nd Infantry Division, stood beside Queens veterans at Bayside’s Raymond O’Connor Park to call for various reforms, including the reduction of wait times for mental illness treatment and the passage of the Service Members Rights Enforcement Improvement Act to address veterans’ unemployment.

He said he would use his military experience to help persuade his colleagues in Washington, D.C., to make veterans’ affairs a higher priority.

“The scars that our veterans bring home are physical, mental and emotional and we have a solemn obligation to make sure that we get them the help they need as quickly as possible,” Lancman said. “They do an outstanding job protecting us from harm and our government has to do a better job protecting them when they return home.”

Lancman called for more federal funding for the U.S. Veterans Administration to hire mental health workers to lessen wait times for veterans’ mental illness claims to be addressed. He also proposed to close a loophole within the current system, which he said allows the VA to avoid 14-day treatment regulations with an average of 50-day waits.

By addressing veterans’ mental health treatment availability, Lancman said he hopes to help combat the military’s rising suicide rates. In March, a U.S. Army survey found that suicides among U.S. soldiers rose 80 percent from 2004-08.

Lou Milgram, chairman of the 71st Infantry Regiment Veteran Association, said he supported Lancman in his congressional bid because his military experience could help him advocate for veterans throughout the country.

“Today’s young men and women need strong support in our government by representatives who ideally were themselves volunteers,” Milgram said.

Lancman also called on Congress to reject a U.S. Department of Defense proposal that he said would change the military’s defined benefits plan to a 401(k)-style plan for new recruits and a White House proposal that would double pharmaceutical co-pays for veterans and require a yearly $200 fee.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.