Smoothing The Way For Veterans’ Benefits

August 26, 2011

Epifanio Rebollo, a Brooklyn College Peace Officer, has also served in war—in Basra, Iraq. Assigned to National Guard Company 442 in Jamaica, he was deployed in June 2009 for fourteen months.

A married father of three, Rebollo, 43, received certain military benefits from CUNY which, like those provided by the city and state, have been extended each year since 9/11 by the University’s board.

In 2010, CUNY had 71 reservist employees.

Rebollo says Human Resources personnel at Brooklyn College helped him to get financial and medical benefits. “I was not aware of the specifics,” he said. “But they were great and they put in for it.” Also, his family was able to use his CUNY medical benefits during his time in Iraq.

CUNY covers the first year of health benefits for families of individuals who are deployed.“The key area we are concerned about is the family,” says Leslie E. Williams, University Executive Director of Shared Services.

Rebollo was assigned to assist Iraqi civilians — and transport troops, envoys and journalists, “often through the city, outside the [military] wire,” or the zone of relative safety and protection. He describes seeing thousands of Iraqis travel miles to his base for medical care and the heartbreak of having to turn most away due to a lack of facilities and doctors.

Before 9/11, CUNY-employed reservists called up for active military duty were eligible to receive one month of full University pay, once a year. This benefit is still in place. The extension provides an additional “once in a lifetime” one month’s pay for reservists deployed to fight the war on terror.

Since 2001, these reservists also receive financial benefits to ensure that together with their military compensation there is no reduction from what would have been their CUNY pay while they are deployed. As long as the CUNY board renews the policy, this “reduced military leave pay” is available for the full time of deployment during a calendar year.

CUNY’s Office of Human Resources Management is putting together a deployment package to help explain these benefits. That might some day help Tanesha Orridge, 29, a City College Peace Officer, who has been in the National Guard since 2003. She served in Iraq but has not been deployed since she began working at CUNY in 2008. “It’s not a matter of wanting to go. I have to go,” she says. “I am single. I’d rather go than have someone who is married and has children go.”