Democratic candidate for New York’s 5th Congressional District Carl Achille advocated stronger protections and benefits for veterans in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ St. Albans Community Living Center on Thursday morning.
The press conference, held in St. Albans, featured Achille and representatives from MILENA, or the Military and Law Enforcement Veterans Association, and Emerging Technologies. Achille organized the press conference a few days before Armed Forces Day this Saturday.
“At one time, the Fifth Congressional District had the most veterans residing in our communities than anywhere else in the state of New York. To this day, we are not far off,” Achille said.
Achille, an Iraq War veteran, is the Democratic challenger against U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Saint Albans, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, JFK Airport). Achille is challenging the 20-year incumbent in the Democratic primary this summer.
In St. Albans, Achille focused on the struggles that veterans face in the United States. From homelessness to drug use, veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan war have experienced severe issues. The Department of Veteran Affairs itself reports that veterans with substance abuses have a higher risk of suicide.
“That’s simply not right, not here and not in the United States of America. We can do better. We must do more for our veterans,” he said.
Achille shared his plan for veterans if elected to Congress this year. A few ideas he proposed includes keeping all VA hospitals open and enhance the veterans’ home loan guarantee to ensure housing for service members. He noted that the latter is only directed toward certain veterans.
“This is simply not right, we must open it up to all veterans who served,” he said.
He also favored increasing the pay of service members to support families and cover cost of living. Achille did not believe the current salary, about $30,000, for certain members was enough.
Guerlinz Affriany, founder and chairman of MILENA, spoke about the services his organization provides for veterans as well as the needs that many require.
“As a veteran, we learn to provide. We don’t beg people for food or money,” he said.
The Democratic primary for federal seats is on June 26th.