A program to benefit Genesee County's military veterans is in the works. It will computerize discharge papers filed with the Clerk's Office. It will also provide money-saving opportunities for veterans at participating businesses when they show their photo ID card.
Dubbed "Return the FAVOR" (Find & Assist Vets of Record), it began about two years ago in Putnam County and since then has been implemented in about a dozen counties statewide.
Currently, Genesee County stores the record of discharge papers, called Form DD-214, on paper only. Veterans voluntarily submit their DD-214 to the clerk of record in their community as a safeguard procedure so it can be replaced if need be or replicated.
In a few months, the paper trail comes to a virtual end and the data goes online.
"Paper is fragile," said Clerk Don Read.
Not mention inefficient and cumbersome to keep up to date. The county probably has about 30,000 gun permits archived since 1934 when permits were first issued. But how many are active, valid permits is unknown.
Those who have implemented "Return the FAVOR" rave about what a good idea it is, Read said.
David Bellavia -- a highly decorated combat veteran petitioning to run as an independent for Congress in New York's 26th District -- issued a press release today thanking Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul for bringing "Return the FAVOR" to that county.
He praised her leadership in the program, which he termed "an appreciated salute to veterans," adding that it should be a statewide standard.
(His kind words are perhaps notable because Hochul is widely regarded as the likely Democrat canidate in the 26th District and will be a Bellavia opponent if he makes the ballot. Bellavia recently launched a petition drive to get on the ballot.)
Read said his office looked into providing "Return the FAVOR" here last year but the cost was prohibitive. The computer software and plastic ID cards, etc., was estimated to cost $30,000 and that money was not in the budget.
But last fall, the county negotiated with a computer company which was contracted to begin computerizing records of pistol permits on Jan. 1. They found out the company could also do the veterans record/ID card program using the same tools employed for pistol permits at, according to Read, no additional cost.
"The first thing is to perfect the pistol-permit program," Read said, adding that his office is looking at a launch date of May 1 and the veterans program would begin sometime afterward.
"We are contacting officials and asking how they would like the (new) pistol permit to be formatted," Read said.
County Judge Robert C. Noonan heads up the Handgun and Pistol Permit Program. District Attorney Lawrence Friedman is also being consulted along with law enforcement.
"This will benefit the Sheriff's Office because deputies will be able to access the database on our Web site," Read said. "When they are going to an address, they can find out who has a pistol permit and what kind of weapons they have before they get there."
Regarding "Return the FAVOR," Read said they are communicating with other counties to possibly extend the discount benefits across county lines. For example, a veteran with an ID card from Genesee County could get a dinner deal at a participating restaurant in Erie or Wyoming County.
The estimated cost to the veteran applicant at the Clerk's Office would be a one-time fee in the $5 to $10 range.
Read said his office plans to work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and the Veterans Service Agency to get businesses to support the discounts-for-veterans program.
But since the Veterans Service Agency lost a full-time worker due to budget cuts, Read said he expects his office will have to do more of the "ground work."