Report: Integrating Aging Veterans Into NYC Services

Report: Integrating Aging Veterans Into NYC Services

Aging New Yorkers are eligible for numerous NYC services, although in most cases aging NYC veterans are not tracked or treated differently because of their military service, even if they have specific needs and conditions as a result of their service. A total of 88.52% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Aging NYC Veterans Population. According to U.S. census data, approximately 67% of NYC veterans served during eras spanning World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. An additional 15% of NYC veterans served during the Cold War period between the Vietnam War and 1990.[1] This means that at least 82% of NYC veterans left the service more than 25 years ago, and can be assumed to be nearing or over the age of 50.

Unique Needs of Aging Veterans. Aging combat veterans often experience the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress throughout their lives, or even onset of PTSD symptoms later in life.[2] Veterans of earlier conflicts also experienced exposure to Agent Orange[3] and other exposures to chemicals, radiation, warfare agents, and other military-related hazards and conditions affecting health over a lifespan.[4]  A study last year documented the effects of PTSD on Vietnam veterans over the course of their lives, revealing that a significant number of these aging veterans experience lifelong symptoms, and that the mortality rate of Vietnam veterans with PTSD by retirement age is twice that of their civilian counterparts.[5] These are situations of special concern beyond the more generalized—although still complex and costly—needs of aging persons. In addition, many veterans who have not sought out healthcare or benefits now find themselves needing these services and are looking for assistance for the first time, despite having served decades ago. It is also worth noting that 1 in 5 homeless veterans are over age 60,[6] and more than half of the population of homeless veterans and those seeking SSVF services are over the age of 50.[7]

Data Table Showing NYC Veteran Demographics from 2012 American Community Survey[8]

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VA Services for Aging Veterans. An array of programs are available to veterans enrolled in VA health care, to include aid and attendance, geriatric services, long-term care, home based and community services, and caregiver services.[9] Eligibility requirements take financial need into account[10] and are geared toward assisting those most in need. Financial documentation requirements are extensive and the application process for these programs can be arduous, especially for aging veterans with limited capabilities.

NY State Services for Aging Veterans. New York State operates full-service, residential veterans nursing homes for eligible veterans and their dependents.[11] One of these facilities is located within NYC.

Needs of NYC’s Aging Veterans. VA and NY State services for aging veterans meet many needs, but additional and/or tailored programs are necessary to match the needs of aging veterans in NYC who wish to remain in their rented or owned homes and apartments for as long as possible and maintain a satisfactory quality of life as a NYC resident. These needs will only increase as a large population of veterans continues to age over the next decade and beyond. For example:

  • Aging veterans in need of home health aid who do not meet eligibility requirements for VA programs must resort to paying out of pocket, even for service-connected disabilities and conditions. Veterans report that VA Aid and Attendance requires extensive documentation and is difficult to attain, and that VA Caregiver Respite is currently targeted at post-9/11 veterans and that funding for this program is also receding.
  • Aging veterans who have limited internet access, limited mobility, or limited understanding of existing VA programs, need assistance in applying for benefits and services they may be eligible for as they age and their needs increase. These benefits and services may include VA life insurance and end of life benefits.
  • Eligibility for rental assistance or other housing assistance in NYC often factors in Social Security and VA disability payments as income, which can exclude disabled veterans from eligibility for these programs—even as these veterans are paying out of pocket for ancillary care and services they need as a result of their disability, but are not covered by VA programs. Current programs to freeze rent increases are available for elderly and disabled individuals,[12] but they take into account VA service-connected disability compensation as monthly income, which can have the inadvertent effect of making these individuals ineligible for these vital protections.
  • Aging veterans have concerns about maintaining access to the standard of living they’ve been accustomed to in NYC, such as living in their neighborhoods, using public transportation, visiting their American Legion posts and VFW halls, and other quality of life issues that may alternate between being veteran-specific or more general in nature. NYC services for the aging and disabled do not currently have veterans liaisons or programs directed toward addressing these issues for veterans. The NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) currently directs all veteran-related queries to MOVA.[13]

Services for Aging Veterans in Other Cities. Areas with large concentrations of aging veterans, such as Broward County, Florida, and San Francisco, California,[14] have dedicated programs and trained staff members providing services that assist aging veterans in need and help to bridge gaps between existing policy and needs specific to their locality.[15]

Exclusion of Pre-9/11 Veterans by Nonprofit and VA Services. Several nonprofits providing otherwise excellent services to veterans were founded to provide services only to veterans who served after 2001. Several specific VA programs also target only post-9/11 veterans. Veterans who served in combat and conflict areas in Vietnam and prior, in Panama, Somalia, the Gulf War, Bosnia, and elsewhere prior to 2001 do not benefit from these programs, although many of these veterans remain in need of such assistance. Over time, the gap in assistance available to pre-9/11 veterans may be exacerbated further as they age. More information is needed on this subject, but this must be taken into consideration.

Respondent Comments. Respondents offered the following comments related to the needs of aging veterans:

  • Adding housing for Senior Veterans on limited to low income should be included on any proposal.
  • The fees the life insurance companies want for continued coverage is ridiculous. We need help... not bankruptcy!!

Recommendations. Aging veterans are the large majority of NYC’s veterans, and NYC’s unique urban environment presents needs and challenges that in too many cases go unmet by existing VA and NY State benefits and services. NYC provides an array of services for its aging population, but these services have no programmatic integration of veteran-specific resources and solutions. These needs will also only increase in the near future. We therefore offer the following recommendations:

  1. A rent increase exemption should be created for disabled aging veterans, similar to existing rent-freeze programs for the elderly and disabled, which does not factor in VA service-connected compensation as income.
  2. At least one veterans liaison at DFTA should be designated for outreach to aging veterans to begin addressing the immediate needs of aging veterans in need of assistance with applying for VA and NY state benefits and services for aging veterans.
  3. MOVA and DFTA should conduct a study of the gaps between existing government programs and the needs of aging NYC veterans who wish to remain in their apartments/homes and neighborhoods and continue their quality of living for as long as possible. The study should include solutions that would provide a coordinated approach by NYC agencies to accommodate the needs of aging veterans.
  4. NYC government should encourage nonprofits serving only post-9/11 veterans to include pre-9/11 veterans in services relevant to them. If funding is at issue, NYC government should consider offering funding to enable these nonprofits to offer relevant services to pre-9/11 veterans. This would likely be the lowest cost of delivery of needed services for pre-9/11 veterans as these nonprofits have existing staff and infrastructure to deliver services.


[1] See Data Table below.

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