By Michael Goot Published on May 27, 2019

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, voted in favor of seven veterans-related bills last week leading into the Memorial Day weekend.

Among the legislation is the Whole Veteran Act, which would require the Veterans Administration to provide Congress with information about the Whole Health program, which is part of suicide prevention efforts. Other legislation would provide resources for suicide prevention coordinators at the VA; require the agency to notice Congress of the suicide or attempted suicide of a veteran at a facility no later than 7 days after the incident; and conduct a thorough review of mental health and suicide prevention services at the VA, according to a news release. Another bill would expand eligibility to receive counseling from VA Vet Centers to members of the National Guard and Reserves or Coast Guard who served in emergency situations.

Other legislation would provide cost-of-living increases for wartime disability compensation, compensation for dependents, clothing allowance and other benefits and realign transition, education and employment programs under the VA under a new Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration.

“Despite our differences, much of what Congress does is bipartisan and has a meaningful impact on so many Americans,” Stefanik said in a news release. “I’m proud that my colleagues and I worked together to pass this legislation, which will expand physical and mental health care access for veterans, equip the VA with the resources they need to prevent suicide, increase disability compensation, and promote education and employment programs for veterans.”

Bus driver checks

Stefanik has co-sponsored legislation to require real-time background checks on school bus drivers.

The Miranda Vargas School Bus Driver Red Flag would mandate that whenever any bus driver receives any sort of driving infraction other than a parking ticket, the school and school bus company would receive a notification from the Department of Transportation within 24 hours.

The legislation is named after Miranda Vargas, a New Jersey 10-year-old who was killed in a bus accident in May 2018.

The driver of the bus, whose license had been suspended 14 times, had attempted to make an illegal U-turn and was struck by a dump truck, according to an account

Stefanik has also co-sponsored other legislation to make school busses safer including the Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards (SECURES) Act, which would require the implementation of seat belts on all school buses and make three-point lap-and-shoulder seat belts the national standard.

Retirement security

Stefanik voted in favor of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which would assist businesses in helping their employees save for retirement.

The bill would provide tax credits for small employers that establish certain plans

It would also change eligibility rules for long-term part-time employees and establish minimum standards for community newspaper retirement plans, according

Consumers First Act

Stefanik voted in opposition to the Consumers First Act.

The law would have established requirements for staffing levels, political appointees and publication of consumer complaints, according

Stefanik said on her Facebook page that the bill, which passed the House, would reverse reforms made to the Customer Financial Protection Bureau that were implemented under the Trump Administration.

“Unfortunately, this reversal does nothing to enhance transparency and removes congressional oversight of the CFPB,” Stefanik wrote.

Saratoga man inducted into Hall of Fame

U.S. Navy veteran Keith J. Koster has been named as the 2019 inductee into the New York State Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, nominated Koster for the honor.

Koster graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 1980 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served from May 1982 to April 1988 and received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, according to a news release.

Koster is a three-time cancer survivor and recently completed the Centennial Challenge – hiking and reaching the summit of all 46 high peaks in New York with the American Legion flag to highlight the legion’s 100th anniversary. He was featured on the cover of the legion’s national magazine in recognition of this accomplishment.

“This challenge demonstrated that hard work, dedication, discipline and being part of a cause that’s greater than yourself, all of which are valuable life lessons that I learned in the United States Navy and through my ongoing service in the American Legion,” Koster said in a news release.

Koster is currently the Judge Advocate for the 4th District American Legion, Finance Officer for Saratoga American Legion, Chaplain for Adirondack Post 70 in Saratoga Springs, and is a 2015 graduate of the American Legion College. He is married to wife Cindy and they have two children and one grandchild.

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