Our Latest

Mayor de Blasio Proposes Cuts for NYC Veterans

UPDATE 1: Rally with us on Valentine's Day!

UPDATE 2: The Mayor heard you loud and clear! We have word that the Mayor is revising his budget proposal to restore the DVS staffing and funding to the same levels as the 2017 budget. We'll update our website and social media with details as we have them.

Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio released his administration’s preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (which begins on July 1st). This is the first step in the city’s process of putting resources behind its priorities. Unfortunately we see a strong statement here about NYC’s veterans, military members, and their families—less funding during a year when the city has had very strong tax revenues. Simply put, we just aren’t a priority in Mayor de Blasio’s budget.

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Get Ready to Run: January 2017 Recap!

We are immensely proud of our newest class of Get Ready to Run Fellows! January 6-9 was their challenge to push themselves through four days of intensive, long days and nights of training, networking, and working with their cohort members to grow and learn and develop as rising leaders getting ready to run for elected office.

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Our January 2017 Fellows!

We’re proud to announce our new cohort of “Get Ready to Run” Fellows who will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this Thursday for four days of intensive training on how to run for elected office!

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Testimony on Veterans Property Tax Exemption Bill

taxexemption.jpgOn Thursday, December 8th, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony at a joint hearing of the NYC Council Committee on Veterans and the Committee on Finance regarding Introduction 1304, which would amend the Alternative Tax Exemption for veterans to include exemption of NYC school taxes for eligible veterans. Below is the testimony of Kristen Rouse:

My name is Kristen Rouse. I am a veteran of the United States Army, I served three tours of duty with the Army in Afghanistan, and I live in Brooklyn. I am testifying on behalf of the more than 220 dues-paying members of the NYC Veterans Alliance.

Affordable housing is a top concern for all New Yorkers, but when we discuss veteran housing in particular—we’re often told to stand in line. Yet going back to the veterans who came home from World War II, veteran reintegration and housing have been intimately linked. Veterans returning home to New York City didn’t just have the G.I. Bill assurances of an education and guaranteed home loan—they also had more than 11,000 apartments in Peter Cooper Village built specifically for veterans and their families to give them the baseline stability they needed to get back to work and build this city’s economy and livelihood as what we now call the Greatest Generation. Yet since that tremendous investment for veterans—and its even greater payoff for New York City and America—our city just hasn’t made the same investment in its veterans.

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Apply to Get Ready to Run - January 2017!

grtr.jpgApply to join our next Get Ready to Run (GRTR) cohort! If you're a veteran, transitioning military member, or military/veteran spouse, domestic partner, or widow in the New York City Metro area -- you're eligible to apply!

The purpose of GRTR is to prepare men and women who are committed advocates for the veteran community to broaden their skills and knowledge in civic leadership.

We hope the end result is for members of our GRTR cohorts to run an effective campaign for public office (local, state, or U.S. Congress) within the next 2-5 years.

 

[Applications are Closed.]

 

 

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Hearing on Resolution Supporting the Fairness for Veterans Act

We drafted and proposed this resolution in May in support of the bill that originated with our member, Kristofer Goldsmith and his DC-based nonprofit, High Ground Veterans Advocacy. It was introduced by Councilman Andy King earlier this month. The resolution urges Congress to pass, and the President to sign into law, the Fairness for Veterans Act of 2016, which would mandate a fair review process for veterans discharged administratively under less-than-honorable conditions, often for circumstances stemming from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or sexual assault. Watch highlights of the hearing here: 

 

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Testimony on Resolution Supporting Fairness for Veterans Act

On Friday, October 28, 2016, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony at a hearing of the NYC Council Committee on Veterans regarding Resolution 1196, urging Congress to pass, and the President to sign into law, the Fairness for Veterans Act of 2016. Below is the testimony delivered by Kristen Rouse:

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Testimony on Street Vendor Modernization Act

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony at the NYC Council Committee on Consumer Affairs hearing on a package of bills known as the Street Vendor Modernization Act. Below is the testimony presented by Kristen Rouse:

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Introduction of Law Extending Alternative Veterans Property Tax Exemption to Include School Tax

New York State offers a reduction in assessed property value for veteran homeowners, with rates between 15% and 25% based on wartime and combat service eligibility criteria. In New York City’s five boroughs, this results in eligible veteran homeowners being told they “only have to pay school tax.” Yet those tax rates have ballooned by more than 60% since 2003; the current school tax rate (which veterans must pay) is 11.5%. A 2013 NYS law gave school districts the option of adopting the tax exemption for veterans, but that didn't include provisions for NYC to adopt this law. On September 29, 2016, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that finally permits the NYC Council to adopt the school tax exemption for NYC's veteran homeowners, which would provide significant relief.

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VEThack Ruck March to End Veteran Suicide

On September 17, 2016, the NYC Veterans Alliance joined VEThack, GORuck, and many other organizations as a partner in this annual event that unites our community in focusing attention on ending veteran suicide.

View our collection of member photos from this memorable day:

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September 13th is Primary Election Day in NYC!

supertuesday_crop.jpgTomorrow’s election will decide the overall winners of the many New York State Senate and Assembly seats that are on the ballot this year, given that in many districts vote overwhelmingly for one party over another. While this may not be ideal—please go vote if your party has a primary ballot in your district!

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Human Rights Bill Introduced!

group_small.jpgToday we were proud to stand with Public Advocate Tish James, Council Member Jumaane Williams, Commissioner Loree Sutton, and Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis to mark the introduction of the bill we drafted and proposed last spring to amend NYC's human rights laws to include protections for veterans and military members. The bill's language has been updated to summarize this as "uniformed service," and express the most inclusive definition possible. We approved this change within the last few weeks, and we are proud to be part of moving this legislation forward. Below is the statement of Founding Director Kristen Rouse at today's press conference at City Hall:

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"Super Tuesday" Voter Registration in Union Square

On August 2, 2016, the NYC Veterans Alliance teamed up with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and NYC Votes to register new voters and inform voters on veterans issues. View our photos of this inspiring day:

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NYC Veterans Property Tax Exemption Issues

PROBLEM: New York State appears to offer a reduction in assessed property value for veteran homeowners, with rates between 15% and 25% based on wartime and combat service eligibility criteria. In New York City’s five boroughs, this results in eligible veteran homeowners being told they “only have to pay school tax.” Yet those tax rates have ballooned by more than 60% since 2003; the current school tax rate (which veterans must pay) is 11.5%. A 2013 NYS law, however, gives school districts the option of adopting the tax exemption for veterans, which NYC’s school district has not yet explored. Additionally, differences between property tax exemptions offered by NYS and NYC for veterans are confusing and difficult to understand.

PROPOSAL: The NYC Veterans Alliance proposes a working group to clarify existing NYS and NYC veterans property tax exemption policy and its impacts on qualifying NYC veteran homeowners and propose next steps to NYC and NYS officials to implement policies that achieve true tax relief for qualifying NYC veterans as intended by law.

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Protecting Veteran & Military Status in NYC Human Rights Law

From our first policy agenda meeting last September to our Policy Design Workshop in December, follow-on group "Draft" workshops in January, and community responses to our 2016 surveys--it has been clear that veterans, military members, and their families are facing a wide range of challenges that can and must be addressed at the local level. But foundational to all of these issues is one key absence: veterans and military members are not included as protected categories of persons in NYC's human rights law.

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At Last! Cuomo Signs Veterans Equality Act Into Law

BREAKING!! Governor Cuomo has at last signed the Veterans Equality Act into law, rectifying NY State's pension system for veterans who have honorably served our nation in recent decades and across the globe. This comes after two vetoes and his office's lobbying against it. Our voices were heard, and we're proud to have been key players in this year's drive toward passing this legislation!

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Sign Up for Get Ready to Run!

As part of our mission to empower NYC veterans, we invite our members to join our nonpartisan Get Ready to Run program! Whether you're already planning to run for elected office, or you're interested in becoming more engaged and informed as a civic leader, we hope you'll let us know below that we can include you as part of our program's contact list!

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Dare to Lead with NYC Veterans Alliance and VoteRunLead!

The NYC Veterans Alliance is proud to announce our partnership with VoteRunLead to urge veterans and their spouses to get ready to run for elected office. Women in particular often need an extra push to view themselves as qualified, capable candidates, so we are truly thrilled to open up VRL’s daylong Dare to Lead women’s leadership conference to women who have served in any branch of the military, as well as women who are spouses (or widows) of a military member or veteran.

 

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Testimony on Toxic Exposure Research Act and Burn Pit Legislation

On April 21, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony before the NYC Council Committee on Veterans on proposed Resolution 579-A calling on Congress to pass and the President to sign the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015. We were the only organization other than the Vietnam Veterans of America to present testimony at this hearing, and the testimony itself was followed by an informative, in-depth discussion of the toxic exposures of Vietnam, Desert Storm, and OEF/OIF veterans.

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Update on Closure of VA Healthcare Center at 25 Chapel Street in Brooklyn

Today the Executive Director of the VA’s NY Harbor Healthcare System, Martina Parauda, spoke at the Veterans Forum held at the VA’s Healthcare Center at 25 Chapel Street, Brooklyn. Several months ago, NYHHS announced that they would be potentially closing the Healthcare Facility at 25 Chapel Street; today Ms. Parauda announced that they had received approval from the VA higher-ups in Washington, DC, to proceed with a plan to close this facility as  of June 30, 2016.

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Preliminary Results: 2016 NYC Veterans Surveys

Thanks to everyone who has already responded to our 2016 NYC Veterans Surveys! We hope that more veterans and spouses/partners in NYC, Long Island, Westchester, North Jersey, and Hudson Valley will take our surveys to better inform us (and our partner organizations) about what they’re experiencing. Our survey data will go directly toward improving policies and making resources more accessible for veterans, military members, and their families in the NYC area.

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GRTR March 2016 - Success!

The weekend of March 18-22 was the official launch of our Get Ready to Run initiative, which took four NYC veterans on a four-day trip to Washington, D.C. The program will involve follow-on support and training for these four veterans, as well as future cohorts that we select, train, and support.

Watch and listen to what our four future candidates have to say about their Get Ready to Run experience during their visit to the Newseum:

 

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Will Gov. Cuomo Fail Veterans Again?

Governor Cuomo vetoed the Veterans Equality Act just before Veterans Day last year--the second year in a row after our state lawmakers passed near-unanimous, bipartisan bills to update New York's outdated and unfair rules for career civil servants to "buy back" up to three years of pension credit in exchange for their honorable military service. Right now he has a chance to remedy this--but will he fail us yet again?

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GRTR March 2016 - Success!

The weekend of March 18-22 was the official launch of our Get Ready to Run initiative, which took four NYC veterans on a four-day trip to Washington, D.C. The program will involve follow-on support and training for these four veterans, as well as future cohorts that we select, train, and support.

Watch and listen to what our four future candidates have to say about their Get Ready to Run experience during their visit to the Newseum:

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March 2016 - Meet Our Cohort

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When we served in the military, we relied on our ability to work with others to accomplish the mission. It didn't matter what anyone's politics, religion, background, or other personal attributes were--we were all in it together to serve our country and represent America's best values and leadership in the world. Now that we're home, we're still ready to serve. And as veterans, we're perfectly prepared to work with people who may be very different from us to do the very best we can for our community, our city, and our country. We're not afraid of a challenge, and we're ready and willing to lead.

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2016 NYC Veterans Surveys

cover_small.jpgThe NYC Veterans Alliance, in partnership with Pathfinder, is pleased to release an important set of surveys that will help to assess the needs of the NYC veterans community. If you’re a veteran or military member, student veteran, or spouse or domestic partner of a veteran or military member in NYC or the NY Metro area, we hope you'll provide critical input on specific issue areas.

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Another Bill Signed, Another Pen for the NYC Veterans Alliance!

Another proud day for the NYC Veterans Alliance: we received our second bill-signing pen!

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This morning, Mayor de Blasio signed yet another bill we've supported into law. This is the FIFTH local law that the NYC Veterans Alliance helped to push through since we started last year, and we were the only organization in the room who actively advocated for its passage.

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Affordable Housing & Mental Health Committees: "Draft Day"

On Saturday, January 30, we invited veterans and civilians to join us at Civic Hall for a "Draft Day" to get into the details of the policy solutions we want to see addressing Affordable Housing & Homelessness Prevention (in the morning) and Mental Health & Suicide Prevention (in the afternoon).

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Standing Up for Veterans: Our Community Reintegration Initiative

In early 2015, Mayor de Blasio touted his commitment to ending veteran homelessness as part of the Obama administration’s initiative (and large-scale funding) to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. NYC government lagged in its efforts to find appropriate affordable housing to allow a sufficiently large number of homeless veterans to move from the crowded, inadequate conditions of NYC’s homeless shelters. In late 2015, HRA made last-minute deals for veteran housing that have drawn anger and frustration from local communities and jeopardized the success of veteran reintegration into these communities.

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Testimony on Oversight of the Veterans Advisory Board: Impacts of Last Year's Reforms

On Wednesday, January 13, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony before the NYC Council Veterans Committee on the performance of the Veterans Advisory Board since reform legislation was passed in February 2015:

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Policy Design Workshop

On Monday, members of the NYC Veterans Alliance convened at Civic Hall to workshop and discuss policy issues and solutions. We were joined by Commissioner Loree Sutton of the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs and members of the Civic Hall community.

Below is a letter from Samuel Innocent, Director of Policy, to the members of the NYC veteran alliance breaking down the magic that occurred Monday night and to share the results:

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2016 Policy Agenda Survey

In December 2015, we asked the NYC veterans community to take our 2016 Policy Agenda Survey to help us assess the priorities we should focus on as we develop our 2016 Policy Agenda. The topics listed were based on the issues raised during our First Policy Agenda Meeting in September. The survey had 82 respondents, and they identified as follows:

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NYC Department of Veterans Services (DVS) Becomes Law!

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).

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Testimony on Discharge Upgrades for Gay and Lesbian Veterans

On December 14, 2015, the NYC Veterans Alliance testified in favor of the NYC Council Committee on Veterans resolutions in support of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which is federal legislation proposing to automatically upgrade adverse discharges for veterans for no other reason than homosexual conduct, and New York Restoration of Honor Act, which would automatically extend NY State benefits for honorably discharged veterans to those adversely discharged for homosexuality.

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Veterans Included in Mental Health "Roadmap"

Today First Lady Chirlane McCray is announcing the details of her Thrive NYC Roadmap for NYC mental health services. This was anticipated earlier this year, but at last comes with a number of initiatives—and among them, veteran-specific initiatives that are promising steps forward for NYC veterans, service members, and their families. We are pleased that the NYC Veterans Alliance had input in this important set of initiatives, and that some of our recommendations from earlier this year will at last be implemented.

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Veteran Street Vendor Committee Meeting with Council Member Ulrich

On Wednesday, November 18, the NYC Veterans Alliance Street Vendor Committee, in partnership with Veterans 4 Veterans NYC, Inc., met with Council Member Eric Ulrich, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Veterans, to discuss needed reforms for NYC’s veteran street vendors. CM Ulrich was receptive and empathetic to the concerns and recommendations of the group, which included five seasoned veteran street vendors who represented a range of experience with vending food and merchandise using the city’s variety of permits available to veteran vendors. The meeting explored several potential legislative remedies to the current problems encountered by veteran vendors.

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Concerns About the Post-Reform Veterans Advisory Board

Earlier this year, we were part of the push to reform the NYC Veterans Advisory Board in order to make it more truly representative of NYC veterans and also transparent, with published meeting announcements and minutes of meetings so that the NYC veterans community can understand what the VAB is doing on their behalf.

The nomination and appointment process remains opaque, but we have been encouraged that the VAB has been making progress in becoming the representative advisory board intended by the City Charter--until yesterday. Mid-afternoon on Monday, November 16, the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs announced that the next VAB meeting would be held in Queens--just a few hours following the announcement. This was absurdly short notice for anyone from our community to be able to attend.

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A Great Week for NYC Veterans and the NYC Veterans Alliance!

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

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Testimony on Ending Veteran Homelessness

On Thursday, November 12, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony before the City Council's Committee on General Welfare and Committee on Veterans related to the oversight of the city's efforts to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. Founding Director Kristen Rouse presented the organization's testimony, and member LaTasha Peeler provided her own vital testimony about her experience as a formerly homeless veteran. 

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VETO of 2015 Veterans Equality Act

In an overnight veto on October 26, Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again squashed a bill that was passed unanimously in the NY State Senate and had only one dissenting vote in the Assembly. As a result:

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Asking Questions at the VFW Queens County Council Legislative Breakfast

Yesterday was the 51st Annual Queens County Council Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Queens County Council of the VFW. Ryan Graham, Commander of the Queens County Council, coordinated the event and made sure veterans citywide were invited to attend. Special thanks to Ryan for inviting NYC Veterans Alliance leaders and members.

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Urging Governor Cuomo to Sign the Veterans Equality Act

Today Governor Cuomo received the Veterans Equality Act from the NY State Senate, giving him ten days to either sign or veto it. Please call Governor Cuomo's office at 518-474-8390 (select option 3) to urge him to sign it into law. We sent him the following letter:

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Testimony on Making NYC Parks More Affordable to Veterans

On Friday, October 2, Samuel Innocent testified before the NYC Council Committee on Parks and Recreation in favor of Introduction 856, which would make NYC parks more affordable to veterans by discounting recreational facility fees:

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Transcript: First Policy Agenda Meeting

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On September 21, 2015, the NYC Veterans Alliance held its First Policy Agenda Meeting at Civic Hall. Thanks to volunteer Meaghan S., we have a transcript of what was discussed at the meeting.

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Community Mental Health Summit at the Manhattan VAMC

On Monday, September 21, the Manhattan VA Medical Center held its annual Community Mental Health Summit, where VA administrators sought to improve understanding and communication between the VA and service providers and veterans within the community. The event was held in Atrium A (the main conference center), and was well-attended by a large audience made up mostly of service providers from non-VA programs and nonprofits in the area. The program as a whole was informative and interactive, but left us with many questions about how much community input would go toward actual changes at the Manhattan VAMC, or whether there will be follow-up with community members about what was discussed.

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Testimony by the Veteran Advocacy Project on Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

On September 18, our partners at the Veteran Advocacy Project at Urban Justice Center testified in favor of Introduction 793, a bill proposed by the City Council Committee on Veterans that would create a task force to study and report on veterans in the NYC criminal justice system. This testimony highlighted key points about veterans in the criminal justice system that were vital to expressing the importance of this bill. We encourage our community to take note.

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Testimony on Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

On Friday, September 18, the NYC Veterans Alliance testified in favor of Introduction 793, a bill proposed by the City Council Committee on Veterans that would create a task force to study and report on veterans in the NYC criminal justice system.

 

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Mayor de Blasio Blasted on Homelessness--But What About Veterans?

The New York Post has recently blasted Mayor de Blasio on his handling of the spike in homelessness in NYC, and on Monday de Blasio's top aide on health and human services stepped down--the highest ranking resignation in thus far in the de Blasio administration. The Post has also accused de Blasio of shortchanging programs aimed at bringing veteran homelessness to zero before the end of this year. What's really going on?

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Full Recap: Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Thanks to everyone who came to our first event, the Forum on NYC Veterans Policy. Your attendance, support, and participation made it a tremendous success. If you couldn't make it, be sure to view the photos and audio clips below to share in this informative, insightful, and community-building event. We hope to see you next time.

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Photo by Omar T. Columbus for the NYC Veterans Alliance
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Celebrating a Win: IDNYC for Veterans

There are many issues we've brought up and discussed about NYC veterans, but it's always a great day when we can celebrate a win, connect with City officials, and also visit with great organizations and veterans who are active with our community.

Our report last month, Change is Essential, showed that veteran designation on IDNYC cards is important to our community, and we recommended that the IDNYC define veterans according to the inclusive definition of the City Charter. Although veteran designation on IDNYC cards has been in the works for some months, our survey and recommendation helped to push this program to its final implementation as a high-quality, inclusive program for NYC's veterans.

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