WAPPINGERS FALLS, NY— Arguing that the inaccurate claims puts the health and safety of local veterans in jeopardy, Senator Sue Serino today is calling on her opponent to immediately retract false information and outright lies being published by the Smythe Campaign.

In campaign literature and on a new smear website created by the her campaign, Karen Smythe says, “She [Serino] claims to support our veterans…but she voted against funding a proven life-saving counseling program for vets with PTSD.” To justify the outrageous claim on the website, the Smythe campaign cites bill “S. 7530C,” which the campaign says “is a budget bill that provided funding for the Vet2Vet program, an essential life-saving service for veterans suffering from PTSD. Serino claims to support the program, but she actually voted against this budget.”

The problem? S. 7530 is actually a bill that aims to restore judicial discretion in cases where bail is being determined, as seen here, has absolutely nothing to do with veterans or the program in question, and was never even brought to a vote in the Senate. While Smythe’s campaign materials are littered with falsehoods and inaccuracies, this one is particularly dangerous to the local community. 

 “This campaign has been on the backburner for me as I have worked around the clock to help our neighbors hard-hit by the pandemic, but I will not ignore slanderous claims about my record that I truly believe puts the health and safety of our veterans at risk,” said Senator Serino. “I brought the Joseph P. Dwyer Program to Dutchess County in 2015 after members of my Veterans Advisory Board and local vets shared with me just how important they thought it would be, and I have fought tirelessly alongside them to successfully get the funding restored in every budget since.”

Serino continued, “The success of the Vet2Vet program is built on trust—trust between veterans themselves, trust between military families, and trust between community leaders who work to promote the program to help get veterans through the door. Attempting to erode that trust to score cheap political points only creates more barriers to care for veterans and their loved ones who need it most. I am absolutely disgusted that my opponent would stoop so low at a time when this pandemic has put everyone’s mental health on the line.”

Keith O’Hanlon, Chair of Senator Serino’s Veterans Advisory Board and a long-time champion of the Vet2Vet Program said, “This claim is not only false, it’s negligent and dangerous. This lie could discourage local veterans in need from seeking help and Karen should be ashamed that she has to use a lie like this to try to get a leg up in some political campaign. Veterans in our community had been asking for the Vet2Vet program for years and were constantly being told there was no funding for it. When Sue took office and formed her Veterans Advisory Board, it was one of the first things we brought to her attention, and within weeks, she had secured the funding necessary to make it a reality. It has been saving lives here in Dutchess ever since. Anyone who says she’s not a supporter of this program is grossly out of touch. No one has fought harder for us on this issue—year, after year, after year—than Sue Serino.”

Serino is personally responsible for bringing the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Program (Vet2Vet) to Dutchess County, where it launched in 2015 thanks to the $185,000 that was secured by Serino at the time. The groundbreaking program uses a non-clinical, peer-to-peer approach to empower local veterans who may be struggling with PTSD, TBI, addiction and other mental health challenges.

When it comes to the Vet2Vet funding in this year’s state budget, the Democrats in charge of running the Legislature and controlling the budget process—the very Majority Smythe talks openly about aligning with on all major issues—decided to split this funding between two budget bills.

The first bill in which funding was included, S. 7503C, actually cut funding for the program in half, which caused Serino and all of her Republican colleagues to vote against the bill. During a debate surrounding the bill, the Senate’s Finance Committee Chairwoman argued that additional money for the program would be included in a later bill. but no bills were provided to substantiate this claim before S. 7503C was voted on.

The following day, another budget bill was released that included the additional appropriation to fully fund and expand the Dwyer program in the state. However, that bill came with a catch—it empowered the Governor to unilaterally cut funding for programs included in it should the state’s budget become unbalanced. So despite Serino’s outspoken push to restore the full funding, she ultimately chose to vote against this bill because she did not believe this vital funding should ever be subject to such cuts.

O’Hanlon continued, “Sue did the right thing with this vote, but more importantly she kept our veterans community in the loop throughout the entire broken budget process. Sue hasn’t acted on a single veterans initiative without the input of local vets and that’s what matters. Politicians do a lot of talking, but Sue actually listens and that’s what makes her a true leader.”