Hochul pushes for state veteran status for 9/11 National Guard Members

State News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) —  Governor Hochul signed three different bills that hope to expand the definition of World Trade Center first responders, and bring National Guard members who assisted with the 9/11 response up to veteran status in New York.

Upon seeing the attacks on 9/11, New York National Guard Members traveled to armories across the state without hesitation. 

“Using whatever means possible our soldiers knew to get to that site and report for duty,” Colonel Richard Goldenberg, Public Affairs Officer for NY Army National Guard.

By the end of that fateful September day, over 6,000 members were assisting with recovery and security in New York City.

“It was about assisting law enforcement with securing the area and providing additional manpower for what initially would be the search for survivors,” Goldenberg said.

So why can’t some of those National Guard members utilize the same benefits as other First Responders who helped on 9/11? 

“The National Guard’s motto of ‘always ready, always there’ really came to the forefront on that day,” Shannon MacColl, Director of Public Information for New York State Division of Veterans’ Services, said.

MacColl said the loophole for leaving out National Guard members comes down to activation for that emergency. Former New York Governor George Pataki activated NY National Guard troops through the state because he didn’t want to waste time.

“Where as a federal activation would have had to come from the President at that time, and that would have taken more time,” MacColl said.

As a result, many of them aren’t considered veterans, but Governor Hochul hopes to change that with new legislation.

“We sign these bills to try and alleviate some of the burdens that are in place. That makes it more difficult for people to get the benefits they deserve,” Hochul said during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at the Javitz Center.

Hochul signed off on three different bills that would expand the definition of World Trade Center first responders and give guard members that veteran status in New York state.

“9/11 illnesses and sacrifices; Those are a lot of things that they [National Guard troops] have had to deal with,” MacColl said.

She said if approved, these bills will impact over 5,000 members who responded to 9/11 but it still won’t qualify them as a veteran on a federal level. 

“This is good for state-run programs. However, there still needs to be a program on the federal level to allow for VA healthcare services,” Peter Potter, Public Affairs Director for Albany Startton VA said.

Much of that status change will be about taking the first step in recognizing their service.

“If for nothing else, it’s a sign of respect that New York shows to them,” MacColl said.

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