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Governor Cuomo Implements "Experience Counts" Initiatives to Help Returning Veterans Get Jobs in New York

Press Release

Location: Albany, NY

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today implemented two key initiatives of his "Experience Counts" campaign to help returning veterans get jobs in New York State.

The Governor announced that the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles is now waiving road tests for veterans applying for a commercial driver's license if they have military experience operating a similar vehicle.

In addition, the Governor today announced appointments to the New York State Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families, a group of state agency representatives and civilians that help returning veterans get jobs and advises the Governor on issues that affect New York service members.

"It is only right that our veterans are able to use the experience they gained while serving our country to help find employment here at home," Governor Cuomo said. "To further help our veterans, we have now expanded the Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families. These appointees will bring their extensive experience serving our nation's veterans to help ensure that New York State provides the highest level of service to our returning service members and veterans."

The Governor launched the "Experience Counts" campaign on Veterans Day 2011 to help ensure the valuable and specialized skills that come from military service are recognized and used to help our heroes enter or reenter the civilian workforce.

DMV Initiative to Help Veterans Get Jobs

In announcing the "Experience Counts" campaign, Governor Cuomo called on the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make it easier and less costly for military members who have gained experience driving trucks and heavy equipment during their military service to obtain a New York commercial driver license by waiving the road test requirement.

The waiver is now available for up to 90 days after discharge or for active duty military and active duty New York National Guard members that currently hold a valid driver license. Applicants must be regularly employed, or have been regularly employed, within the last 90 days in a military position requiring operation of a commercial motor vehicle, and also have operated a vehicle that is similar to a civilian commercial vehicle for at least two years immediately preceding discharge from the military. Applicants must also certify that they have not had their license suspended, revoked, cancelled or denied in the last four years.

Applicants must fill out a "CDL Certification for Military Waiver of Skills Test" form (CDL-102) which is available at any DMV office or online at Applicants must still pass a written test and pay the written test fee, but the $40 road test fee will also be waived by completing the certification.

Barbara J. Fiala, Commissioner of the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, said, "In this economy, many returning soldiers have had difficulty in finding work. We hope that this small way of thanking them for their service, and recognizing that the skills they learned in the military are transferable to civilian jobs, will make things just a little easier for our returning veterans."

Bill Kraus, Acting Director of the NYS Division of Veterans' Affairs, said, "I am extremely thankful for the efforts Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles have taken to assist returning veterans in transitioning their military skills into meaningful civilian jobs. The "Experience Counts" program will provide a conduit for many of our state's returning veterans to enter the civilian workforce. The implementation of this program coupled with the expansion of the New York State Council on Returning Veterans and their families exemplifies the Governor's commitment to our State's veterans."

Major General Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York, said, "Governor Cuomo's initiative will make it easier for our National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, who have honed their skills in operating heavy trucks in some of the most demanding conditions imaginable, to translate that real-world experience into a civilian job. I applaud this effort to help our veterans and serving Guardsmen turn their military training into civilian employment."

Appointments to the New York State Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families

The New York State Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families was created in 2008 to develop recommendations to address the multiple needs of veterans and their families in adjusting to post-service life, which involves a collaboration of federal, state and local benefits. On Veterans Day 2011, Governor Cuomo called for the Council to add representatives from additional state agencies and further tasked the Council to determine how the state can further recognize and credit military training and experience, especially in licensure and educational credit programs.

The Governor's appointments include:

J. Michael Haynie, PhD: Dr. Haynie has been appointed to the Council as an academic with expertise in veterans' affairs. Dr. Haynie is the Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, and the Barnes Professor of Entrepreneurship at Syracuse's Whitman School of Management. Dr. Haynie is a sought-after speaker and advisor on issues related to business, veterans, and entrepreneurship and is an appointed member of the U.S. Secretary of Labor's Advisory Committee on Veterans' Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach (AC-VETO). At Syracuse, Dr. Haynie established the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities -- recognized as a "National Best Practice" by the Secretary of the Army for its provision of world-class training in small business start-up and design to post-9/11 veterans disabled as a result of military service. Dr. Haynie is a former Air Force officer who served for fourteen years throughout the U.S. and the world on operational and staff assignments. Prior to joining the Syracuse faculty, Dr. Haynie was assigned as a Professor of Management at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.

Andrew Roberts: Mr. Roberts has been appointed to the Council as a representative of an organization that provides behavioral health services to veterans. Mr. Roberts is the Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Liaison Services at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System (North Shore-LIJ). In this capacity he serves as the Administrator of the Rosen Family Wellness Center, a facility that provides no cost behavioral health care to law enforcement, military, veterans and their families. Mr. Roberts is also Project Director for a soon to-be-opened Unified Family Behavioral Health Center, a joint endeavor with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that will provide collaborative services to veterans and their families. Mr. Roberts is a West Point graduate, former Army officer, and Bronze Star recipient who deployed to Iraq from 2003-2004, serving as a Battery Commander for over 90 American Soldiers and as the American liaison to the city of Balad Ruz in Diyala Province, near the Iranian border. Prior to his work at North Shore-LIJ, Mr. Roberts served as a Deputy Director for the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs.

Suzanne L. Bissonette: Ms. Bissonette has been appointed to the Council as a representative of an organization that provides substance abuse services to veterans. Ms. Bissonette is the Executive Director of Cazenovia Recovery Systems, Inc. a Buffalo-based provider of residential mental health and substance abuse treatment and support services. Cazenovia was founded over 30 years ago, with over 80% of the founding group comprised of veterans. Today, Cazenovia operates Liberty Hall, a residential treatment program, licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, that provides services and transitional housing to male veterans on the grounds of the VA Medical Center in Batavia. Ms. Bissonette has been the Executive Director of Cazenovia Recovery since 2001. She received her B.Sc. from SUNY-Empire State College and her J.D. from SUNY -- Buffalo School of Law.

Todd Benham, Psy.D: Dr. Benham is a former Major in the Medical Service Corps of the U.S. Army and the Chief of the Behavioral Health Department at Fort Drum, where he has responsibility for overseeing clinical and administrative operations for behavioral health, domestic abuse and traumatic brain injury services for about 40,000 Soldiers and beneficiaries assigned to the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and Fort Drum. As the Chief of Behavioral Health, Dr. Benham has instituted programs to ensure that Soldiers receive appropriate behavioral health treatment and expedited dispositions, implemented health reassessments of Soldiers returning from deployment, developed and implemented telepsychiatry programs with Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, and developed treatment protocols for PTSD. Dr. Benham earned his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the Biola University Rosemead School of Psychology and his bachelor's degree in psychology from Northwestern College. Before being assigned to Fort Drum, he completed his psychology internship at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.

Membership of the Council consists of the Director of the Division of Veterans' Affairs, the Adjutant General of the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, the Commissioner of the Department of Labor, the Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health, and the Commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, or their designees and two additional members representing veterans and local government.

In November 2011, Governor Cuomo expanded the Council to add other state agencies that provide services to veterans and additional members who have expertise in issues that affect veterans. The November additions included the Commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal, the President of the Higher Education Services Corporation, the Commissioner of Department of Economic Development, and the Director of Office for the Aging, or their designees. A representative of the State Education Department also participates in the Council voluntarily.

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