The Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran support program began nine years ago as a way for vets to help their peers in crisis. It has provided funding to help veterans in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties in recent years.
The good news is that the initiative could be arriving in Livingston County in the near future providing valuable support services for veterans and their families throughout the four-county GLOW region.
Thirty counties in New York state receive a portion of the program’s annual $4.5 million in state aid. The process calls for the county to appeal to its state representatives through the County Veterans Service Agency for inclusion.
Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties split and share $185,000 from the fund.
“(It’s) not only for the veterans spouses, but for their children, also for female veterans. They do a lot for the veterans,” Genesee County Veterans Service Agency Director Bill Joyce told The Daily News earlier this year.
On Veterans Day, lawmakers urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to fund the program in her Executive Budget, something former Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not do. Cuomo’s inaction forced veterans from across the state to regularly travel to Albany to rally and fight for the program to get funding included in the final state budget for the last six sessions.
The Legislature funded the program with $5 million in the 2021-22 Fiscal Year budget in April, which remains an insufficient amount to fund an adequate program in each of the state’s 62 counties.
Veterans should not have to fight this hard for something that has been shown to help.
Hudson Valley Center for Veteran Reintegration president Kevin Keaveny said working with the Dwyer organization helped his recovery process after serving in the battlefield. Gavin Walters, program manager of the Dwyer Program in Ulster County, said veterans connecting with peers in a welcoming environment is an effective way to assist veterans dealing with trauma.
“Within our own struggles, we see that for another veteran they see us when we’re at our strongest and our weakest,” Walters said. “From that, we can encourage each other and we’re able to help one another get to that right place.”
Sometimes, all a struggling veteran needs is having a cup of coffee and talking to another veteran. But helping a veteran who is close to losing a home or is in crisis with his or her family isn’t magic and it’s not clinical psychology. It takes hard work and dedication. It’s time for New York to enable that work to take place in each of the state’s counties