A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is pushing to have funding for a veteran peer support group included in a final budget deal. 

The Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Project is named after Private First Class Joseph P. Dwyer, a MT. Sinai, New York native, who faced the challenges of PTSD after serving in Iraq.  

The Vet2Vet Project began as a pilot program in 2012 in Suffolk County with a mission to provide a network of peer to peer counseling for veterans. The program has now expanded to 23 counties across the state and provides a safe place for veterans to come together to share and heal from their experiences.

“The urgent need for this program, and others like it, is evident in the needs of those suffering from their experiences and our first goal is to make sure they know that they have not been forgotten,” said Democratic Sen. John Brooks, the chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs.

Lawmakers are asking for around $4.4 million to maintain services and expand the Dwyer program to more counties in the state. The program is currently funded through both the state and the counties' the program is operating in. 

The legislature did secure funding for the Dwyer program in 2019, but Republican Sen. Sue Serino says this was no thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who left out specific funding for this project in his budget proposal last year and this year. 

"Our servicemen and women have made tremendous sacrifices for all of us, and they shouldn’t have to schlep up to Albany each and every year to fight for this critically important funding," Serino said. "This program works, and funding it should always be a top priority. I urge my colleagues to come together to not only fully fund the program, but to work towards expanding it statewide.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did include funding for veteran programs in his budget proposal this year. But he did propose $5 million to help address veteran homelessness and $1 million to support suicide prevention efforts among veterans and first responders.