Report: Increasing NYC's Budget for Veterans
Last year, the city allocated funding for the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) and City Council discretionary funds, in the form of contracts with organizations serving veterans, with a total of just over $700,000 in NYC tax dollars allocated for veterans affairs and services in Fiscal Year 2015. This initiative ranked fourth in receiving the strongest support of the sixteen listed in the survey. A total of 91.0% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.
Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. In FY 2015, the following offices and agencies were allocated funding specifically related to veterans affairs:
Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA): The total budget for MOVA was $614,274, with $311,780 being funded by a New York State grant for a dedicated NYC (county) veterans affairs agency. A total of $592,274 went toward salaries and benefits for the Commissioner and five full-time staff members. Another $18,822 went to “fixed miscellaneous charges” listed as “payments to military and other.” The remaining $3,178 went toward supplies, materials, data processing supplies, books, office services, and travel reimbursements.
NYC Small Business Services: $200,000 was allocated for a veterans procurement study ordered in 2013 by the City Council to determine whether veteran-owned businesses should be a competitive category for city contracts. This study surveyed a small sample of veteran-owned businesses, contained problematic statistics, and concluded that veteran-owned businesses should not be placed in a competitive category for NYC contracts.
Discretionary Funds to Organizations Serving Veterans. The City Council provided $400,000 in discretionary funds to five organizations providing services for veterans.
Federal Funding for Veteran Homelessness Efforts. $3,447,000 in federal grant funding for veteran homelessness providers was listed as a revenue source for NYC government. It is unclear how this full amount is being utilized exclusively toward veteran homelessness efforts.
It should also be noted that the FY 2015 budget shows three veterans benefits counselors listed under “Veterans Outreach Program” at a proposed cost of $162,000 were cut from the final budget. A staff position listed under NYC-DHS for “Adult Families and Veterans Services” at a proposed cost of $93,033 was also cut from the final budget.
How Much Per Veteran? City agencies provide services to veterans that are not named specifically in the budget, although no cost breakdown of citywide veterans programs has been made public. It is, however, accurate to state that the de Blasio administration allocated $302,494 in city tax-levy (CTL) funds in FY 2015 for the administration of veterans affairs, which amounts to about $1.30 per veteran. The City Council allocated $400,000 in FY 2015. Taken together, NYC government has allocated about $3 per veteran annually.
$150 Million? Commissioner Sutton stated in a June 2015 City Council testimony that NYC government spends a total of $150 million annually on veterans services “across more than a dozen agencies for programs and services that benefit veterans and their families,” $57 million of which is for “veteran-targeted housing programs through NYCHA, HPD, and DHS” and $1 million of which is spent by SBS on “workforce employment mentoring to entrepreneurial networking.” It appears that this $57 million refers to HUD-VASH vouchers that are funded by federal dollars and not city tax-levy (CTL) funds; no other housing program for veterans aside from HUD-VASH is known to have significant costs such as this. More information on SBS services for veterans is detailed on pages 58-61 of this report. No further public release has been made of detailed policy initiatives, budgets, work groups, or other specifics related to Commissioner Sutton’s statement.
2016 Budget Announcement. On June 22, 2015, Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito announced that $1.5 million in additional funding will be allocated for new staffing and resources for ending veteran homelessness, as well as $335,000 in new funding for a team of Veterans Service Officers to be made available across the five boroughs. At the time of the release of this report, no detailed FY 2016 budget documents were available for review—and it remains to be seen whether the $1.5 million for veteran homelessness is allocated from federal or city tax-levy (CTL) funds. It must also be noted that this announcement comes after persistent pressure between April and June of 2015 by the NYC Veterans Alliance, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and other outspoken advocates to increase city funding for veterans affairs and to restore the three veterans benefits counselors slashed from the FY 2015 budget (see above). This announcement represents a step forward, but the entirety of this report should make clear that far more resources and coordination of existing resources are needed for NYC government to catch up to the per-capita funding level for veterans that other cities are currently providing.
Local-Level Funding for Veterans Affairs. Other large cities in the U.S. provide a greater amount of local-level funding for veterans affairs and services per capita than NYC:
- The City of Boston allocated $5.5 million last year for its Veteran Services Office, which serves an estimated 120,000 veterans residing in the city—slightly more than half of NYC’s veterans population. Approximately $3 million of this funding was provided by the State of Massachusetts. This funding goes toward lobbying for improved local and state policies and resources for veterans and their families, in addition to maintaining veterans memorials and museums within the city. Counting only city tax dollars, the City of Boston allocates approximately $21 per veteran annually—around $18 more per veteran than NYC.
- The City of Yonkers allocated $427,530 this year for its Department of Veterans Services, $12,500 of which was funded by NY State. The Department of Veterans Services has five staff members who serve an estimated 7,500 veterans residing in the city. The Department offers robust services connecting veterans with resources and benefits. Counting only city tax dollars, the City of Yonkers allocates approximately $55 per veteran annually—around $52 more per veteran than NYC.
- The City of Chicago announced last September that it has added $800,000 in city tax dollars toward veteran housing and homelessness initiatives in addition to the federal dollars it receives, plus it is to donating four acres of land for new veteran housing facilities. Chicago has a veteran population of approximately 92,000. To date, it does not appear that NYC government has allocated any city tax-levy (CTL) dollars in addition to the federal funding it receives for veteran homelessness programs.
- San Diego County offers robust services and benefits for its population of approximately 244,000 veterans through a Veterans Services Office that operates on an annual budget of $1.1 million. The Veterans Services Office provides comprehensive benefits counseling, claims preparation and submission, follow-up, help with appeals, and networking and advocacy with federal, state, and local agencies—in addition to other services it provides to veterans. No revenue from state sources for veterans services was noted in county budget documents. If this full amount is funded by county tax dollars, this represents approximately $4.50 per veteran annually—around $1.50 per veteran more than NYC.
Recommendations. MOVA has an important coordinating role with city agencies that serve veterans, but it is extremely limited in the amount of funding and direct programming it manages—particularly in comparison with other cities that provide local-level funding for veterans services. We therefore make the following recommendations:
- NYC should prioritize city tax-levy (CTL) funds for both oversight of veterans affairs in NYC and direct services for veterans at significantly higher per-capita funding levels for veterans.
- More adequate funding for veterans affairs and services should enable the implementation of the recommendations made on pages 51-57 and elsewhere in this report.
- It appears the recent claim that the city spends $150 million is misleading in its inclusion of federal funds that do not pass through the hands of NYC government agencies or employees. More clarification of this amount is needed, and an organization such as the NYC-based Citizens Budget Commission should be asked to review the details behind this amount and to develop recommendations for reducing redundancy and empowering improved oversight of programs related to veterans and family members.
 Adding together City Council discretionary funding and city tax-levy (CTL) funds allocated for MOVA in FY 2015.
 Page 5R, “The City of New York Schedules Supporting the Adopted Expense Budget for Fiscal Year 2015,” http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/ss6_14.pdf
 Pages 9 and 12, ibid.
 Page 23, ibid.
 Page 2362, ibid.
 See pages 58-61 of this report for information on contracting goals for veteran-owned businesses.
 See pages 16-18 of this report for information on discretionary funds.
 Page 53R, “The City of New York Schedules Supporting the Adopted Expense Budget for Fiscal Year 2015,” http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/ss6_14.pdf
 Page 1060, ibid.
 Page 1124, ibid.
 See pages 19-35 of this report for information on the HUD-VASH program.
 Page 25, “City of Boston Summary Budget,” http://www.cityofboston.gov/images_documents/Summary%20Budget_tcm3-50812.pdf
 Page 142, “City of Boston Revenue Summary,” http://www.cityofboston.gov/images_documents/Revenue%20Estimates%20and%20Analysis_tcm3-50814.pdf
 Page E2, “City of Yonkers Citywide Department Summary,” http://www.cityofyonkers.com/home/showdocument?id=10355
 Page B6, “City of Yonkers Revenue Summary,” http://www.cityofyonkers.com/home/showdocument?id=10349
 Page E3, “City of Yonkers Citywide Department Summary,” http://www.cityofyonkers.com/home/showdocument?id=10355
 Page 204, “County of San Diego Adopted Operational Plan,” http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/auditor/pdf/adoptedplan_14-16.pdf