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As New Yorkers Prepare to Honor All Veterans, Gillibrand Announces Plan to Strengthen Job Protections, Open Access to Financial Counseling, Mental Health for National Guard and Reserve Members

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Location: Washington, DC

With approximately 25,000 full and part-time National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in New York State, including approximately 1,300 serving in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is announcing a new plan to give National Guard and Reserve members access to the services and opportunities they deserve in return for their service and sacrifice.

Senator Gillibrand's plan strengthens civilian job protections for deployed Guard members, provides family and financial counseling services for Guard and Reserve members and their families to which they currently do not have access to, and expands access to physical and mental health services for Guard and Reserve members.

"The men and women of our Guard and Reserves stand shoulder to shoulder with active duty troops overseas, fighting to keep us safe," Senator Gillibrand said. "When they come home to their families after serving our country, they deserve access to health care and counseling, protection for their jobs and other services that they have earned. They fight to keep America safe every day, they shouldn't have to fight through red tape and struggle to afford the services they need here at home. We need to fight for them."

Every New York Air National Guard (ANG) Wing has had individuals deployed this year, from the 107th Airlift Wing at Niagara to the 106th Rescue Wing on Long Island, and all the ANG bases in between, including the 105th Airlift Wing in Newburgh, the 109th Airlift Wing in Scotia, and the 174th Fighter Wing in Syracuse. Additionally, the Army National Guard has a large portion of the 27th Brigade out of Syracuse deploying next year. Overall, New York will have several thousand personnel deployed from the Army and Air National Guard by early 2012.

* In New York City, there are 103 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 2,000 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Almost 3,000 Guard members live in New York City.
* In Western New York, there are 142 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 1,200 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Over 2,100 Guard members live in Western New York.
* In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, there are 31 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 700 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Over 900 Guard members live in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region.
* In Central New York, there are 13 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 1,100 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Over 2,000 Guard members live in Central New York.
* In the Southern Tier, there are seven National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 300 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Almost 600 Guard members live in the Southern Tier.
* In the Capital Region, there are 25 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 1,100 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Over 2,300 Guard members live in the Capital Region.
* In the North Country, there are 17 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 400 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Almost 600 Guard members live in the North Country.
* In the Hudson Valley, there are 50 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 900 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Over 2,000 Guard members live in the Hudson Valley.
* On Long Island, there are 62 National Guard and Reserve personnel currently deployed in combat zones, and over 1,000 have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Over 1,500 Guard members live in Long Island.

Senator Gillibrand's Plan to Support National Guard and Reserve Members

Civilian Job Protection
Since September 11, 2011, voluntary active duty members fighting in Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Enduring Freedom have been exempted from the five-year limit on reemployment under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the law requiring that service members can return to their civilian jobs after they have been deployed overseas. Exemptions cover service during a time of war or national emergency, support of missions where others have been ordered to duty under an involuntary call-up authority, and other critical missions or requirements.

However, full-time National Guard duty is not covered under those exemptions, forcing many National Guard members to choose between keeping their civilian jobs and serving our country.

After a decade at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, an increasing number of National Guard members are approaching the five-year limit of protection for their civilian jobs. Since 9/11, nearly 7,000 citizen soldiers have been called to perform federal missions under Title 32.

Senator Gillibrand is introducing the Senate version of the bipartisan National Guard Employment Protection Act, legislation to include full-time National Guard duty for possible exemption from the USERRA five-year limit.

Network of Support and Services
While most active duty service members returning to military bases after deployment overseas have access to mental and physical health services, National Guard and Reserve members do not, leaving them on their own to find and afford the health and counseling services they need to support their transition to civilian life.

Senator Gillibrand is introducing the Senate version of the bipartisan National Guard Outreach Act, legislation to help veterans secure health care services, marriage and financial counseling, substance abuse treatment and other services through the help of fellow veterans serving as outreach specialists who can relate to the difficulties of returning troops and their families.

Mental Health Support
According to the RAND Corporation, mental health disorders, substance use and traumatic brain injury (TBI) affect nearly 20 percent of all of service members who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. National Guard and Reserves often return from their tours of duty and transition into civilian life without direct access to health care services and information they need.

To improve the mental health of service members and veterans, the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released an Integrated Mental Health Strategy, including a plan to advance mental health care for members of the National Guard and Reserves through community partnerships.

To support and bolster those efforts, Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the bipartisan Joining Forces for Military Mental Health Act, legislation to improve coordination and collaboration among community partners and with the DOD by authorizing the DOD to establish a pilot program to designate and provide grants to community partners for research, treatment, and education efforts on mental health and substance use disorders and TBI in members of the National Guard and Reserve and their families.

Additionally, Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the bipartisan Embedded Mental Health Providers for Reserves Act, legislation that provides National Guard members with access to licensed mental health professionals in armories, reserve centers and other places for scheduled unit training assemblies, bringing mental health services within reach for soldiers living and serving in regions with remote access to mental health professionals.


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