November 11, 2011: Transcript of Acting Director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs Bill Kraus

TOP November 11, 2011: Transcript of Acting Director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs Bill Kraus

Read the transcript from the web chat with New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs Bill Kraus on November 11, 2011.
Bill Kraus said:
Good afternoon, I am Bill Kraus, Acting Director of the New York State Division of Veteran's Affairs. The Division of Veterans' Affairs was created in 1945 to assist World War II service men and women with the readjustment from the military to civilian life. With a central office here in Albany and Benefits Counseling Offices in almost every county of the state, we at the DVA work each day to help veterans and their families and ensure they receive benefits granted by law for their services to our state and nation. As Governor Cuomo and all New Yorkers honor our nation's service men and women this Veterans Day, I look forward to answering questions today about the DVA's efforts to provide quality service, advocacy and counseling for New York veterans, and the Governor's recently launched "Experience Counts" to ensure service members' training and experience can help with securing employment in the civilian workforce.

Question from Jim:
How do I contact a State Veteran Counselor?
Bill Kraus said:
Answer: To find one near you please call 1-888-838-7697 or visit
Question from Kim in Niagara County:
My father is a surviving WWII Merchant Marine Veteran and I have received correspondence from a veteran's group that these veterans are not receiving the full benefits that vet's from other branches receive, such as the US Army, etc. Mt father went thru Parris Island and served his country proudly as all his brothers did too. My question this true? Are WWII Vets that served in the Merchant Marines considered different from other Veterans?
Bill Kraus said:
On January 19, 1988, it was declared certain Merchant Marine service as qualifying for Veterans benefits. Merchant seamen who served in active oceangoing service from December 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945 are considered to be veterans. If you would like assistance processing your request please call 1-888-838-7697 during normal business hours to be put in touch with one of our State Veteran Counselors.
Question from Angela in Binghamton:
How do I qualify for the Veterans Tuition Award?
Bill Kraus said:
Eligible students are those who are New York State residents discharged under honorable conditions from the U.S. Armed forces and who are: Vietnam Veterans who served in Indochina between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975. Persian Gulf Veterans who served in the Persian Gulf on or after August 2, 1990. Afghanistan Veterans who served in Afghanistan during hostilities on or after September 11, 2001. Veterans of the armed forces of the United States who served in hostilities that occurred after February 28, 1961 as evidenced by receipt of an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal or a Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.
Question from Frankie in Utica:
How much of a benefit will I receive under the Veterans Tuition Award?
Bill Kraus said:
For the 2011 - 12 academic year, the maximum annual full-time award is set at $5,295 or tuition, whichever is less. For part-time study the initial award figure is estimated at the cost of full-time attendance. Upon certification of the student’s part-time status the award is recalculated according to the number of credits certified and the student’s actual part-time tuition liability. If a Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award is also received for full time study only, the combined academic year awards cannot exceed tuition. Thus, the TAP award may be reduced accordingly.
Question from Jim in root:
Why in New York state does it take years for a disability decision and in other states months.
Bill Kraus said:
There are numerous details that factor in each and every claim for compensation/pension benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These factors include the complexity of the claim, number of issue requested for service connection, additional medical evidence and appointments as well as the Regional Office workload. The Division is an advocate for Veterans and their families, the claims are submitted to the US Department of Veterans Affairs for decision. It is very rare for standard claims to take years to receive a decision. Claims that take years are normally those that have entered into the Appeals Process. If there are any questions, please contact us at 1-888-838-7697
Question from Rebecca in Riverdale, NY:
What is the unemployment rate for young veterans in New York State?
Bill Kraus said:
The unemployment rate for veterans age 18 – 34 in New York, between September 2010 and October 2011, was 17.5%. This is compared to 10.9% for non- veterans age 18 – 34 during the same period. These rates are based on the Current Population Survey data.
Question from Deanna in Mohawk Valley:
I hear NY has a program for blind veterans, how does it work?
Bill Kraus said:
A veteran must be legally blind, have served during a wartime period and live in New York State. If a veteran was married at the time of his or her death, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive the benefit. But it is not automatic; she or he must apply for the benefit. For further details, call 518-486-3602.
Question from Sam in Sand Lake:
I am a veteran and out of work - where can I get help finding a job.
Bill Kraus said:
The New York State Department of Labor has over 80 One-Stops located across the state that provide veterans with assistance in finding work. The Department has staffs, who are veterans themselves, dedicated to providing services to veterans. You can find the One-Stop closest to you on the Departments web site Yesterday Governor Cuomo announced an innovative initiative called experience counts to help veterans qualify for jobs upon returning to New York. As Governor Cuomo said the “Experience Counts” campaign will facilitate the transfer of military skills to the public and private sectors.
Question from Sheila in Buffalo:
How do I check the status of my VA education claim?
Bill Kraus said:
To check the status of your education claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you should call 1-888-442-4551
Question from Anonymous:
What benefits exist for veterans in NYS?
Bill Kraus said:
In addition to the benefits a veteran may qualify for through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the State of New York has programs such as: the Blind Annuity Program, The Gold Star Parent Annuity, Property Tax Exemption, Homes for Veterans Program, Supplemental Burial Allowance, Veterans Tuition Award, Military Recognition Scholarship, Employment Program 55b/c, State Veterans Homes, Discounted or free Hunting and Fishing licenses, and the NYS Park Pass.
Question from Anonymous:
How do I apply for my education benefits?
Bill Kraus said:
You can apply for your benefits online by going to and clicking on the VONAPP tab.
Question from Mike in Syracuse:
How do I get a veteran ID card to qualify for veteran discounts at stores in my area?
Bill Kraus said:
If you do not have a retiree ID card, you can get a veteran ID card by applying for and qualifying medical benefits at your local VA hospital. You may also want to check with your county clerk’s office to see if they participate in the Veteran ID card program.
Question from Chris in Holbrook/Long Island:
I just got off active duty and am not working can I collect Unemployment Insurance?
Bill Kraus said:
Individual situations are unique so file a claim for Unemployment Insurance and your eligibility will be determined once you have filed your claim is received. Claims can be filed on line at In addition to filing your claim you will need to fax a copy of member 4 of your DD-214 to (518) 457-9378 or mailing it to the NYS Department of Labor Central Support Unit, PO Box 15130, Albany, NY 12212.
Question from Kimmi in Cayuga County:
My father in law is a WW II veteran. He is now required to be in an assisted living facility. His montly income only covers about half the cost of the assisted living facility. At the moment he is using his assets to make up the difference in his monthly income and his cost of care. His assets will only last for another six months and then we do not know what we will do. Are there any programs through the VA that could help him?
Bill Kraus said:
Yes, would love to assist your father in-law. You should contact one of our State Veteran Counselors at 1-888-838-7697. They have the expertise and experience that can guide you and your family through the eligibility process and see what benefits he qualifies for.

Bill Kraus said:
Unfortunately, we are out of time for our chat. Thank you all for your participation today. If you would like to know more about the New York State Division of Veteran's Affairs, please visit our website at: In addition, a toll-free information and referral hotline — 1-888-VETS-NYS (1-888-838-7697) — is available to refer veterans and their families to the nearest State Veteran Benefits Counseling Office. As we gather with our friends and families this Veterans Day weekend, let us never forget the service and sacrifice of New York and our nation's veterans.