For years, simply being gay was a legitimate reason to be dishonorably discharged from the military. Unfortunately, if a veteran is discharged dishonorably, he or she can be refused dozens of state benefits. But that excuse ended in New York yesterday when Governor Cuomo signed into law the Restoration of Honor Act, which went into effect today.

Assemblymember Didi Barrett, chair of the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs, spoke with Capital Tonight host Susan Arbetter about three of the bills (below) that she sponsored, as the first woman to chair this committee.  

Restoration of Honor-Takes Effect today (11/12/20)- Legislation to extend New York State veterans’ benefits and services to veterans with an “other than honorable” discharge status and a qualifying condition such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or military sexual trauma (MST), or who were discharged unfairly for being LGBT (Chapter 490 of 2019). This is the most comprehensive legislation in the United States restoring earned benefits to this group of dedicated men and women who served this country. A companion bill codified the Division of Veterans’ Services Discharge Upgrade Advisory Board program to help more veterans improve unfair discharge statuses (Chapter 481 of 2019).

Outdoor Rx Act-Signed into law yesterday by the governor- Aims to make our state’s natural resources more accessible to veterans and others struggling with trauma, depression and other mental and behavioral issues through collaboration between state agencies, nonprofits and veterans’ organizations to coordinate the use of public lands. By breaking down the barriers such as Americans with Disabilities (ADA) accessibility and transportation challenges, the new law helps move New York toward a more comprehensive and holistic approach to veterans’ health.

NYS Veterans’ Cemetery-Passed both houses-awaiting final approval by the governor- New York state is one of only a few states that does not have a state veterans' cemetery. Under current law, the process for creating a cemetery is difficult, and requires a high bar that is not easily met. Many groups have expressed an interest in creating a veterans' cemetery, and this legislation responds to those calls by making it easier for the Division of Veterans' Services to move forward with the process.