Members of the New York National Guard who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks would qualify as veterans under a bill proposed this weekend by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The measure would expand benefit eligibility to the Guard members who were called to duty in response to the attacks, but were not on active federal duty, Hochul said on Saturday at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary.
But the proposal came as Hochul also sought to expand access to benefits to responders at the World Trade Center, many of whom continue to suffer devastating health effects from the toxic substances ingested at the site in the wake of the attacks.
"On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I am introducing legislation that will ensure that all of the National Guard members who were ordered into service at Ground Zero, and who have not otherwise earned Veteran status through federal activation, are fully recognized as veterans under New York State law," Hochul said. "The New York National Guard was there for us on that dark day, and we will be there for them."
It was not immediately clear how many people the proposal would expand veterans' benefits to if the measure is given final approval by the state Legislature.
Hochul also pointed to three newly approved bills aiding those who provided support and resources in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. One bill, backed by Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblyman Peter Abbate, would expand the criteria to define first responders who participated in the World Trade Center rescue.
Another bill approved is meant to increase accessibility in applying for first responder benefits, a proposal supported by Sen. Diane Savino and Abbate.
And a third bill approved expands the definition of first responder to include communication workers, a measure backed by Abbate and Sen. John Brooks.
"We signed these bills to try and alleviate some of the burdens that are in place that make it more difficult for people to get the benefits that they deserve," Hochul said. "They truly do deserve these. And I'll simply say this: I will continue to have your backs because you have ours every single day."