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One state senator wants to help LGBT vets access state programs

NY State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).

A New York State senator wants to make sure that veterans discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation can qualify for state programs.

New York has 53 programs for veterans, according to State Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan. Those include scholarships, health screenings, and reimbursements for burial costs.

But Hoylman says getting those benefits may be impossible for vets discharged other than honorably. That category includes many lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender vets who left the armed forces before the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in 2011. Hoylman says he will propose a bill in the state Senate this week that will help LGBT vets circumvent this problem within the state’s Division of Veterans’ Affairs, so they can more easily qualify.

But passage is an uphill climb. Hoylman is a Democrat and Republicans control his chamber. The proposal also comes about three weeks before the end of the legislative session in Albany, and many bills are competing for attention.

Hoylman says that despite the crowded calendar, this should be a priority.

“Yeah, there’s a few weeks of session, but these are men and women who have served our country, risked their lives.

In previous years, similar legislation has stalled at the federal level.