Santabarbara: Bill to strengthen pensions for veterans part of Assembly budget

Legislation that strengthens pensions for New York’s veterans is included in the Assembly’s one-house budget, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, announced.

The Veterans Equality Act would allow all public sector workers who were honorably discharged from the military, regardless of when and where they served, to purchase credit toward their pension. The legislation is also included in the Senate’s one-house budget and will now become part of the final state budget’s negotiations.

“All of our veterans volunteered to put the needs of their fellow Americans ahead of their own when they signed up to serve our country, and they’ve all sacrificed and deserve gratitude,” said Santabarbara, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran and member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I’m proud to continue fighting for this bill that has strong bipartisan support.”

State and local government employees who served in combat before 1975 can currently purchase up to three years of pension credit, but the law excludes all peacetime veterans and those who have served in more recent conflicts, from Desert Storm to the present, from receiving the same benefit. The Veterans Equality Act’s inclusion in the final budget, due April 1, would reverse that.

Santabarbara added, “By strengthening retirement benefits for all veterans, this legislation would also encourage them to return to New York State and continue their public service as teachers, firefighters and police officers, as well as state and local government employees.”