Queens lawmaker introduces bills helping homeless veterans and awarding retroactive high school diplomas

Lead photo courtesy of NYS Assembly, story photo courtesy of Assemblywoman Rozic’s office

Approximately 838,000 New York state veterans will have access to educational and social support thanks to a pair of bills sponsored by a Queens lawmaker.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic’s bills were part of a package of laws Governor Cuomo signed in recognition of Veterans Day. The first bill expands upon the existing education program Operation Recognition, which awards veterans with high school diplomas.

The second would direct key state agencies to report on the state’s homeless veterans and their required services. The agencies would also provide recommendations to combat the growing epidemic. The bill passed in both the Assembly and Senate with bipartisan support.

Together with Rozic’s bills, Cuomo signed 14 measures to protect current service members and veterans at New York’s 100th Veteran’s Day Parade.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that New York’s veterans have full access to the educational opportunities and social services they need regardless of when they served. We should honor their service while also providing a pathway towards economic self-sufficiency,” said Rozic. “This legislative package enacts solutions to best assist all those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.”

Currently, Operation Recognition gives retroactive high school diplomas to New York state veterans who fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and who joined the military prior to graduating high school. In addition to being an NYS resident, applicants must also have received an honorable discharge.

Previously, Rozic has highlighted Operation Recognition by awarding a diploma to Mr. George Abramowitz who served in World War II (pictured here with Assemblywoman Rozic, Regent Judith Chin, and Francis Lewis High School’s JROTC).

Rozic’s measure expands coverage to all veterans who enlisted following the end of the Vietnam War, such as those deployed in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. According to studies, continuing education and finding a job following service is important to an individual’s healthy reintegration into society.

“Servicemembers and veterans have answered our nation’s call to service, and too often at the cost of their civilian education and career. We applaud the leadership of Assemblywoman Rozic and her work to ensure our most recent generations of veterans are duly recognized for their service by awarding them a high school diploma. When our nation’s young men and women step up to serve on our behalf, we must do all we can to ensure they do not fall behind as a result of that service,” said Kristen L. Rouse, U.S. Army veteran and founding director of NYC Veterans.

Under Assembly Bill A5660, state agencies will create reports that include information on how many veterans are homeless and an analysis of gender in relation to homelessness. The reports will also include data on the number of homeless individuals who are the children of veterans, the placement of the children, unemployment rates and cases of military sexual trauma experienced on active duty.

On a single night in 2018, approximately 37,878 veterans were experiencing homelessness nationally according to data from the Veterans Alliance.

“Though homelessness among veterans in New York has slowly decreased over the years, local efforts to reduce the ongoing epidemic of homelessness are needed as federal funding remains uncertain,” said Rozic, who chairs the Office of State-Federal Relations.

“Veteran integration back into civilian life can be strenuous, looking for work, providing for their families, and securing a stable home. Unfortunately, homelessness rates among veterans have hit staggering figures, whether for those who have served recently during the Global War on Terror, as well as during previous eras and conflicts. Assembly Bill A5660, introduced by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, not only brings this issue to light but delves deeply into finding the reasons behind Veteran homelessness in the state of New York, capturing and understanding the root causes, in being able to combat this issue currently and for future generations of warriors,” added Ryan Graham, Commander, Queens County Council of Veterans of Foreign Wars.