State grant helps vets with re-entry

HUDSON–The Columbia County Veterans’ Services Department has become a beneficiary of the PFC Dwyer Fund, which helps veterans re-enter the civilian world. Department Executive Director Gary Flaherty reported on the grant at two recent meetings.

The benefits consist of a $100,000 start-up grant and quarterly booster grants. Examples of what the money can be used for include peer-to-peer supportive interaction between veterans, helping veterans pay household bills if they have trouble covering them and helping families of incarcerated veterans. Mr. Flaherty said he is “working on a master plan” for use of the grants.

The PFC Dwyer Fund comes from New York State. Columbia County got enrolled “with the help of state Senator Kathleen Marchione,” Mr. Flaherty said, adding that “Senator Marchione has been really good to us.” She is retiring at the end of this year.

The state determines the amount of the quarterly booster grants every year as part of its budget process. One factor in consideration is the number of veterans. For 2018-19, Columbia County’s quarterly amount is $25,000.

“Some people ask why a little County like Columbia, with only between 5 and 6 thousand veterans, gets so much money,” said Mr. Flaherty. Senator Marchione’s staff, he said, had explained this by saying: Spend a little time in Columbia County and you’ll know.

The PFC Dwyer Fund was launched in 2012 in memory of PFC Joseph P. Dwyer, an Iraqi War veteran. PFC Dwyer, upon coming home from war, was active in helping fellow veterans re-integrate into society but ended up committing suicide brought on by his own post traumatic stress disorder. Twenty-three counties now receive these funds.

On other matters:

• On November 14, Mr. Flaherty reported: “I have not had a homeless veteran whom I haven’t been able to place within 24 hours. Sometimes in Albany, Schenectady or Pittsfield. At meetings I hear others say that Columbia is the only county in New York with no homeless veterans”

• On December 3, Mr. Flaherty announced that a new federal law allows veterans to use their own doctor instead of having to use a VA doctor, no matter how close they live to a VA hospital, and the VA will pay for it. “I’ve been pushing for that for a long time,” he said.

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