LI officials, groups urge state to restore funds for vet support program

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HAUPPAUGE -

Nassau and Suffolk's county executives joined veterans groups in Hauppauge Friday to push the state Legislature to restore funding to a veterans support program.

The Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project helps veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dwyer was a U.S. Army combat medic from Mount Sinai. He gained national fame for a photograph of him helping an Iraqi boy. He died in 2008 of an accidental drug overdose while suffering from PTSD.

Veterans and officials want state lawmakers to restore millions in funds for the program.

Before getting involved in the program, Joseph Damato, a veteran from Levittown, says he was basically a shut-in and couldn't even walk.

Greenport native Ralph Mims says he also had trouble adjusting to life after being discharged from the military. He says he was in and out of jail and eventually became homeless before getting involved in the Dwyer Project. He says it completely turned his life around.

The program started in Suffolk in 2012. It's now in nearly two dozen counties throughout New York. But Gov. Cuomo didn't include any money for the program in his proposed budget this year.

Last year, the state gave the program $3.7 million. Lawmakers say they're determined to make it $4.7 million this year.

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