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New program of mutual benefit assists those who served

— On average, a veteran from the Vietnam War could be homeless within 10 years of leaving service. Now, a soldier returning home can become homeless in about seven months. The reasons behind this alarming statistic arevaried but economics are certainly at the top of the list.

To help veterans a little on the financial end, and to recognize their services, a new statewide program initiated by Albany County in September 2011, Return the FAVOR, (Find and Assist Veterans of Record, (RTF)) is stepping in, and giving businesses a much needed boost at the same time. It provides veterans with a valid form of identification, discounts for goods and services at participating businesses and highlights those businesses.

RTF supplies any honorably discharged veteran with a business size laminated card to serve as an alternate form of identification to the usual DD214, issued to soldiers once they complete military duty. Identifying veterans was actually the first goal of the program.

The secondary goal, to give area businesses a boost came about as a way to thank the veterans. The RTF card can be used like any other valid identification like a driver’s license and is less cumbersome to carry than the DD2-14 which is a letter sized piece of paper. A DD214 is the only proof veterans have that they served. If there is no form, a records request can be done to obtain the information, but can take several days or even months to get.

So far many counties have taken part in RTF including Albany,Saratoga, Orange, Rensselaer, Ulster, Greene, Warren and Washington. Every county has their own system for verifying eligible veterans for participation in RTF. A wide variety of businesses have partnered with RTF, including attorneys, hardware stores and insurance agencies.

Jerry Stanislowsky, acting director at Albany County’s Veterans Service Bureau said, “The program was coordinated through the Albany County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Albany County Executive. Basically what we’re trying to do is to get it inevery county in New York State, that’s the goal.”

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