By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Standing outside the Fort Hamilton Army Base’s main gate, through which thousands of soldiers pass each year to be processed into the military, two local lawmakers called on New York State to do more to help disabled war veterans struggling with start-up businesses.
State Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis are pushing for passage of legislation that would give disabled veterans the same advantage in obtaining state funding as minority and women business owners.
Under the state’s Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development, the state has a policy to support and assist minority- and women-owned businesses by encouraging state agencies to enter into contracts with them. The state also strives to help these businesses grow and develop.
Golden and Malliotakis said the same assistance should be given to veterans who have been injured serving this country in war. The two elected officials were joined by a group of veterans at a press conference outside the fort gate on March 23.
“Each and every day, disabled veterans are returning from war and military operations around the world with injuries that will forever affect their life. Many return home to the land they fought to protect with the dream of starting their own businesses,” Golden said. “They want to be the soldier-turned-entrepreneur, but there are many challenges to advance that goal.”
Malliotakis has introduced a bill, called the “Veteran Owned Business Enterprise Act,” in the state Assembly and Golden said he will introduce the same piece of legislation in the Senate.
“With nearly one million veterans calling New York State home, state government has the solemn duty to take care of our wounded heroes when they return to the United States,” Malliotakis said. “This legislation will link disabled servicemen and women to all of the financial and operational resources available to benefit their ventures in business and improve the state’s economy while honoring our obligation to veterans,” she said.
Malliotakis and Golden are speaking out about business opportunities for veterans at a time when the issue of unemployment for veterans is becoming a nationwide topic of discussion.
Approximately 30 percent of veterans under the age of 25 are unemployed, according to www.msnbc.com. The unemployment rate for returning war veterans of all ages is 12.1 percent above the national average, the website reported.
On March 26, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Tom Brokaw, former NBC News anchor, appeared on the “Today” show to talk about the importance of business owners hiring veterans.
“We need to understand where soldiers come from,” McChrystal told “Today” show host Ann Curry.
Soldiers are trained to work as a team and are therefore reluctant to tout their skills, according to McChrystal. This can hurt returning veterans in the job market, he stated.
Brokaw told Curry that veterans could play a vital role in helping the nation’s economic recovery, if employers would be willing to hire them.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has started a “Hiring Our Heroes” campaign to match veterans with perspective employers.
The “Hiring Our Heroes” campaign has sponsored more than 100 jobs fairs across the country.
Meanwhile, back in Bay Ridge, Golden and Malliotakis continued to push for help for veterans seeking to start businesses.
“The legislature cannot pass on an opportunity to strengthen our economy and do the right thing for our veterans who have risked their lives to defend our safety and freedoms,” Malliotakis said.
“We must make passage of this legislation a priority to assist our American heroes,” Golden said.