Creating a Department of Veterans Services

Creating a Department of Veterans Services

Success! This was one of our accomplishments in 2015.

Support for the creation of a Department of Veterans Services for NYC has been a key issue for the NYC Veterans Alliance.

Last year, Council Member Eric Ulrich introduced bill 314, proposing to create an independent, city-level Department of Veterans Services. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a large majority of City Council members have supported it. Public Advocate Letitia James has also strongly supported it. On November 4, 2015, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Sutton added their support to the bill, ending months of opposition by the de Blasio administration. On December 10, 2015, Mayor de Blasio signed the bill into law.

A summary of the bill is as follows:

Currently, Section 14 of the New York City Charter establishes an Office of Veterans Affairs within the mayor’s office. This bill would establish a separate Department of Veterans Services (the “Department”), headed by a Commissioner of Veterans Services. The bill would provide the Department with the responsibility to cooperate with federal, state, and local agencies and to inform and assist members of the armed forces and veterans, and their families in matters relating to: educational training and retraining services and facilities; health, medical, and rehabilitation services and facilities; provisions of federal, state, and local laws and regulations giving special rights and privileges to members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families; employment and re-employment services; and other appropriate matters.

Additionally, this bill amends the New York City Administrative Code to require the Department to publish information on its website concerning resources intended to assist veterans in obtaining employment, and to consult with city agencies to identify job postings for inclusion on the Federal veterans’ job bank. Finally, the bill requires each city agency to designate an employee to act as a liaison with veterans within the agency, and the Department to provide periodic training to the veterans’ liaisons, as well as to post on its website the names of the liaisons at each city agency.

Once the bill is implemented, it will have the following outcomes that are otherwise not possible under the existing MOVA charter:

  • Veterans Affairs would be accountable to both the Mayor’s office and the City Council, which would mean that it would have greater continuity between mayoral administrations because it would no longer be under the total control of each sitting mayor, and thereby wholly subject to whether a mayor prioritizes veterans affairs or not.
  • Being accountable to both the Mayor and elected City Council representatives would also make veterans affairs more responsive to the concerns of the community because veterans could directly petition all of their elected city officials to make improvements.
  • A Department of Veterans Affairs would have the ability to oversee the $400,000 in City Council discretionary funds given annually to organizations that provide services for NYC veterans, an authority which MOVA does not currently have.
  • A Department of Veterans Affairs would have its own budget to manage to provide the direct assistance to military members and veterans that is mandated by the City Charter.
  • A Department of Veterans Affairs would likely be able to add the staffing and resources needed for program management, improved coordination and communication with all NYC agencies, improved coordination and communication with NY State and federal agencies, and more comprehensive coordination and communication with the many nonprofits and veteran service organizations in NYC.
  • A Department of Veterans Affairs would have greater capability to inform military members and veterans in NYC of the comprehensive resources available to them, as mandated by the City Charter. It would also likely be able to add robust and qualified staff to communicate resources and events through far more effective use of social media, online and printed newsletters and brochures, and other communication methods needed to reach the approximately 220,000 veterans and military members residing in NYC.

Below are the most recent posts, statements, and recommendations the NYC Veterans Alliance has made on this issue:

 

On Thursday, December 10, veteran leaders and advocates from across NYC were invited to attend a ceremony aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, where Mayor Bill de Blasio at last signed into law the bill creating a NYC Department of Veterans Services (DVS).


Veterans Week was a banner week for the NYC Veterans Alliance!


The City Council Veterans Committee has introduced a bill that would elevate the current Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) to an independent agency that would centralize oversight and management of veterans affairs in NYC and be accountable to both the Mayor and City Council. MOVA currently is only accountable to the Mayor. As of the release of this report, this bill is pending in committee. A total of 84.37% of respondents indicated this initiative was either essential or very important to them.


Earlier today we joined NYC Public Advocate Letitia "Tish" James, Paul Rieckhoff and members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and other veterans and veteran advocates at City Hall to call on Mayor de Blasio to support the proper resourcing of veterans affairs for NYC. Our delivered remarks were abbreviated due to time constraints, but below are the full prepared remarks for today's event:


The NYC Veterans Alliance was featured on NY1's "Inside City Hall" with Errol Louis:


The NYC Veterans Alliance was featured in The Daily Beast article below, written by Jacob Siegel:


Today at City Hall, the City Council Committee on Veterans, led by Council Member Eric Ulrich, was a hearing on oversight of the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA). Commissioner Loree Sutton promised specifics, but did not deliver--unless we consider the litany of organizations and agencies she listed at length as having met with since September to be her promised specifics. She referred numerous times to a "strategic plan" for the administration to end veteran homelessness, to address veterans mental health, and to place veterans into good employment. But the Commissioner offered no specifics--no dedicated staff, no amount of funding, and no timelines--and no reference to any printed or published plan that citizens might expect to see from government officials.


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