Gov. Andrew Cuomo is once again proposing a new name for the state agency that assists veterans with benefit claims and appeals.
One of Cuomo's 30-day budget amendments would rename the Division of Veterans' Affairs as the Division of Veterans' Services. The agency's mission would remain the same.
The proposed name change for the agency was first included in Cuomo's budget last year. In his 2018 State of the State booklet, his office explained that there is often confusion between the federal Department of Veterans' Affairs and the state division.
The federal VA provides health care and other services. While the state works with the federal department by assisting veterans with benefit claims, the two agencies are separate entities.
"This confusion frequently leads to misdirected complaints to the division about claims processing delays at the federal level and management of federal medical centers," Cuomo's office wrote in the booklet last year, "and to an overall sense of confusion about the division's designated role and value for veterans and their families in New York."
Cuomo's proposal to change the name of the Division of Veterans' Affairs didn't advance last year. The 2018-19 state budget didn't include the change, and it wasn't addressed during the remainder of the legislative session.
Altering the division's name wasn't part of Cuomo's initial executive budget plan for the 2019-20 fiscal year. But he included the proposal in his 30-day budget amendments released Friday.
If the change is adopted, the state division would share a name with several county-level veterans' service agencies across New York.
Jessica Strassle, director of the Cayuga County Veterans' Service Agency, acknowledged there is confusion between the local department's role and the federal VA. There are veterans who come into their office, she said, who think they're VA employees.
The county Veterans' Service Agency is accredited through the American Legion and has a similar role as the state Division of Veterans' Affairs. Staff at the local agency assists veterans with filing claims to obtain VA benefits.
Strassle doesn't believe the proposed change at the state level will impact the local agency's work.
"It just might mean more clarification for veterans to understand what we do versus what the VA does," she said.
While Cuomo's proposal is part of his state spending plan, it could be dealt with outside of the budget process. Any change would require state legislative approval.