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December 22, 2008

New Law Helps Guard and Reserve Members Facing Bankruptcy

President Bush has signed into law the National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Act of 2008 (PL 110-438). The new law aids Guard and Reserve members who are enduring financial hardships to receive bankruptcy assistance. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Act of 2005 required that filers go through a rigorous means test in order to prevent individual debt to be discharged into bankruptcy. The National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Act exempts Guard and Reservists from the means test, allowing for more time to get their finances back in order and to file for bankruptcy protection. This new law applies to Guard or Reservists who have been on active duty since September 11, 2001. The protection is effective while the Servicemember is on active duty for more than 90 days and for 540 days following activation. Link to full text:


May 26, 2008

Memorial Day May 26, 2008
Message from Patrick W. Welch, PhD
Director, Erie County Veterans Services

Each Memorial Day we remember those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great nation. Most of us remember everyday those who we were close to us and we hope that Americans realize what the true meaning of today is.

As we reflect upon their service from the Revolutionary War to the latest causalities in Afghanistan and Iraq we must always remember that the freedom we enjoy everyday is a direct result of actions taken by those we pay homage to today.

Since the founding of this country Americans have served all over the world to combat those tyrants and dictators who wish to oppress and destroy the free will of the people on this planet. Many of these battles have been politically and morally correct and some have not been. But those who went to serve and give of themselves must not ever be judged upon the political correctness of their service; but solely upon the merit of their service when their country called.

I would like to share with you the following that was written by Tom Robinson a Vietnam Veteran. It is titled, "We are the Soldiers"

From the land to the deepest ocean
From the dark to the clearest sky
We are the soldiers that make sure
Our flag flies high
We have our blood type on our helmets
And wear metal tags with our full name
We carry rifles for protection
But that's not why we came
We were born in the land of freedom
And we'll die giving you the same
Hold our heads up high with honor
Never shame
We defend our nations liberty
And freedoms everyday
The USA ... still safe today
Should we ever fall in battle
Don't let our spirit die
We'll all remain here among the living
As long as Glory flies
Liberty and justice
With sweet freedom
Glory flies.

Freedom is our birthright as Americans and we must all realize that this freedom was purchased with the sweat, tears, blood and lives of those who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States.

As veterans, we must keep alive the memory of our brothers and sisters who gave their lives so that others continue to enjoy the quality of life America provides, because it's our duty to remember.

For our current military, when you meet these men and women who serve America, you find the strength and character of this nation. And the enduring belief that what matters most is freedom. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. God bless all of you and God bless the United States of America.


May 19, 2008

Local Veterans To Receive Free College Education

Trocaire College first to enter into partnership with Erie County

Veterans returning to Erie County from Iraq and Afghanistan can now receive a totally free college education thanks to a partnership between Erie County and Trocaire College. Trocaire College will wave any tuition expenses not covered by the federal GI Bill or New York's Veteran's Tuition Award for Erie County's own heroes returning home from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"As the nation prepares for Memorial Day weekend, our local community needs to prepare to welcome home our newest generation of veterans," said Erie County Executive Chris Collins. "Erie County needs to give our young men and women a reason to stay and make a life here. Our community and our economy will benefit from their energy, character and bravery."

Erie County's Director of Veterans Services, Patrick Welch, is working with local colleges and universities to provide our newest generation of veterans with increased educational opportunities.

"While members of Congress debate whether or not to provide proper funding for veterans health care and an improved GI Bill for education, Erie County and Trocaire College are taking action today," said Patrick Welch, Erie County's Director of Veterans Services. "We can not wait and allow our newest generation of veterans to wonder what awaits them upon their return. This community, to the best of my knowledge, is the first in the nation willing and able to welcome our veterans home and provide them with a free education."

Trocaire College was the first local higher education institution to agree to offer tuition free of charge. Bryant and Stratton College and ITT Technical Institute have also agreed to participate.

"Trocaire College is pleased to partner with the Department of Veterans Services in offering educational benefits to returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans," stated Trocaire President Dr. Paul B. Hurley, Jr. "We recognize the sacrifices these men and women have made for our country and we are proud to be able to provide these returning veterans an opportunity to further their education."

Hundreds of Western New Yorkers have been deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.


May 13, 2008

Kennedy's 1st Annual Veterans' Outreach a Success

On Saturday, May 10th, 2008, Legislator Tim Kennedy welcomed over 150 veterans to the Buffalo Irish Center. In front of a standing room only crowd, Legislator Kennedy, Patrick Welch – Erie County Director of Veterans' Services - and representatives from various veterans' organizations delivered a program which informed veterans and their families of the benefits they had earned. Mayor Byron Brown, Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, Councilman Michael Kearns and a representative from Congressman Brian Higgins' office also were in attendance to honor the veterans.

This program was the first of its kind offered to the residents of Erie County. As veterans and their families came pouring in, they were treated to a complimentary breakfast and asked to sign up for programs which would provide them with the benefits they had earned through their service to this county. In most cases, the veterans in attendance had not signed up with the VA Hospital. According to Patrick Welch, "Signing up with the VA Hospital is vitally important. In order to prevent delays in times of illness, preparation is needed." Welch went on to say that, "because of an event like this, veterans are now informed, and now know the services available to them."

Legislator Kennedy stated, "I am honored to serve the veterans in my district. My goal was to inform veterans of the benefits they had earned, and I'm confident that this objective was accomplished." Kennedy went on to thank the representatives from the various veterans' organizations that make up the Veterans' Outreach Squad. "People like Carol Griffith from the VA Hospital, Alissa Radlich from 2-1-1 WNY, Brian Held from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and Patrick Welch deserve a tremendous amount of credit. All these people know the importance of our veterans, and make it a priority to go that extra mile for them."

If you could not attend the veterans' event, and would still like to find out information on the benefits offered to veterans, please feel free to contact Legislator Tim Kennedy's office at 824-6180. Arrangements will be made for you or a family member to receive an informational packet.