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FULL REPORT: Change Is Essential

We are proud to be the leading force on NYC veterans policy since January 2015. 

On June 25, 2015, we released a report on the first-ever survey of the NYC veterans community on local veterans policy:

Change is Essential: Report on the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities

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Change is Essential: Report on the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities

The NYC Veterans Alliance is pleased to announce the release of our new report:

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Report: Executive Summary

This is a report on the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities, a survey that solicited responses to policy initiatives from NYC veterans, service members, family members, and service providers in early 2015.

 

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Report: Survey Methodology

From February 4 to March 13, 2015, the NYC Veterans Alliance and NY MetroVets invited veterans, service members, family members, service providers, and others connected to the veterans’ community in the New York Metropolitan area to take an online survey of their policy priorities for NYC government. The survey was disseminated via email and social media to as many NYC veterans and organizations as possible. In addition to NYC Veterans Alliance and NY MetroVets, organizations like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Army Week, Women Veterans and Families Network, the Military Resilience Project, and others promoted it to their membership. Several elected officials also distributed the survey to their constituents.

 

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Report: Who Responded to the Survey

Most of the survey’s 478 responses came from NYC, Long Island, Westchester, and other counties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that make up the New York Metropolitan area.  A total of 93.58% of respondents reported living in or within commuting distance to NYC. A smaller number reported living in the Albany area and on military bases in the U.S. and abroad. A total of 5.14% of respondents reported living outside of these areas. 

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Report: Veteran Responses

Veteran Service and Discharge Status. Of the veterans and currently-serving members of the military who responded, 97.96% indicated they received an honorable discharge for their service or are currently serving. A smaller number of veterans were discharged under conditions that were not characterized as honorable.

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Report: NYC Veterans Policy Priorities

The survey listed sixteen current or proposed NYC veterans policy initiatives, and respondents indicated strong support for all of them. Even the lowest number of responses indicating an initiative is essential or very important still represented a strong majority at 65.39%. Each initiative in the survey is listed below in order ranging from what respondents rated as most to least important.

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Report: Linking 311 with VA Suicide Hotline

Advocates have proposed that NYC’s 3-1-1 information system directly connect suicidal veterans who dial the system to the federally-funded VA Suicide Hotline. This initiative received the strongest support of the sixteen listed in the survey. A total of 95.39% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Vetting Organizations That Receive NYC Funds

Advocates have proposed that veteran service organizations (VSOs) receiving NYC tax dollars to provide services to veterans should be held accountable for the services they provide and to NYC veterans spanning across all demographic groups and generations of service. This initiative ranked second in receiving the strongest support of the sixteen listed in the survey. A total of 94.26% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Improving Services for Homeless Veterans

Advocates have proposed that NYC agencies work more effectively to provide outreach, services, housing, and tracking of veterans who are homeless on the streets, in shelters, living in their cars, in temporary housing situations (with friends or family members), or hidden away on rooftops and other out-of-sight areas throughout NYC because they have nowhere else to call home. This initiative ranked third in receiving the strongest support of the sixteen listed in the survey. A total of 94.13% of respondents indicated that they view improving homeless services as either essential or very important.

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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[1] 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.

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Report: Coordinating with VA Healthcare

Many NYC veterans are satisfied with the quality of healthcare they receive from VA medical facilities, while others report difficulties with VA healthcare, as noted on page 9 of this report. The results of this survey are consistent with the national veterans population, of which less than half of eligible veterans  are enrolled in the VA healthcare system and approximately one quarter of eligible veterans actively seek health care from the VA.[1] This initiative ranked fifth in receiving the strongest support of the sixteen listed in the survey. A total of 88.95% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Inclusive Definition of "Veteran"

Advocates have proposed that NYC define “veteran” as any person who has served in the military and received a DD214, regardless of status or circumstance of discharge, in order to make services available to those who may have been adversely discharged as a result of unrecognized and/or untreated physical or mental conditions related to their military service. This initiative met with the strongest disapproval, with 14.25% of survey respondents indicating that they oppose it. Nevertheless, a strong majority of 67.39% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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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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Report: Reforming the Veterans Advisory Board

In February 2015, following the start of this survey, the City Council passed legislation to reform the Veterans Advisory Board (VAB) by expanding the number of appointees, providing clearer guidance on the role of VAB members, and mandating greater transparency in the meetings and activities of the VAB. Shortly thereafter, the bills were signed as Local Laws 24 and 25,[1] and new members of the VAB were appointed by both the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council.[2] Strong support by survey respondents for this initiative was noted at the time the bill was under consideration. A total of 80.68% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Tracking and Reporting Veterans Receiving NYC Services

In February 2015, following the start of this survey, the City Council passed legislation to mandate the tracking and reporting of veterans served by NYC agencies. Shortly thereafter, the bill was signed as Local Law 23. Strong support by survey respondents for this initiative was noted at the time the bill was under consideration. A total of 87.47% of respondents indicated this initiative was either essential or very important to them.

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Report: Veterans Hiring Preference for NYC Government

While it offers credits for veterans in civil service applications, NYC government does not currently have a comprehensive veterans hiring preference for employment that applies to all agency positions. A total of 87.08% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important. 

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Report: Establishing Veterans Treatment Court in Manhattan

First implemented in Buffalo, NY, in 2008, Veterans Treatment Courts seek to connect veterans in the criminal justice system as a result of untreated mental health conditions with treatment, benefits, and support to get them back on the right track.[1] Veterans Treatment Courts are currently operating in Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens, and one is in the process of being established in Staten Island. There is currently no Veterans Treatment Court in Manhattan, with the exception of the Midtown Community Court, which has a Veterans Court for misdemeanors only within its catchment area.[2] A total of 86.41% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Creating NYC Department of Veterans Affairs

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.

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Report: Making Veteran Businesses Competitive for NYC Contracts

Businesses must meet certain requirements in order to compete for and win bids for contracts with NYC government, and goals have been set for increased contracts for women and minority-owned businesses. Currently veteran-owned businesses are not in a competitive category for contracting with NYC government. A total of 80.82% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Placing Veterans Benefits Counselors in Each Borough

Advocates have suggested that veterans benefits counselors are needed as a government function to inform veterans contacting them of the often complex and time-intensive steps needed to file a disability claim with the VA, to access or utilize VA benefits locally, and to access NY State and NYC veterans benefits within the city. This initiative received strong support from survey respondents. A total of 80.24% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Including Veteran Status on NYC ID Cards

Earlier this year, NYC ID cards were launched, and the Mayor stated that veteran status would be included, although this has yet to be implemented. A total of 70.88% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Expanding Veteran Eligibility for Pension Buyback

Current law permitting honorably discharged veterans employed by NY State and NYC to purchase or “buy back” up to three years of credit toward their pension at a reduced rate presently excludes veterans who served during the post-1975 Cold War era, and in Somalia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Legislation to update eligibility requirements is pending in the NY State legislature as of the release of this report. A total of 69.72% of respondents indicated that they view this as either essential or very important.

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Report: Other Suggested Initiatives

Outside of the previously mentioned initiatives and suggestions, respondents offered the suggestions listed below.

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Report: A Marine's Story

An anonymous respondent[1] wrote his personal story in the comments section of the survey. The intent of this report is to give veterans a voice, and all comments related to the content of the survey have been included here. This Marine’s story is included below to allow him a public voice, and to inform readers about this and similar struggles that many NYC veterans face.

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Report: Contributors and Consultants

The individuals listed below contributed writing, research, and/or consultation for areas of this report. Individual contribution to one or more areas of this report does not equate complete endorsement of all positions and recommendations contained within this report by these individuals, the organizations they represent, or their employers. The content of this report represents collaboration between the NYC Veterans Alliance and members of the NYC veterans community, but not always complete consensus.

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Mayor de Blasio: Some Vets More Equal Than Others

Yesterday--perhaps to save face from the embarrassment of his otherwise complete reversal--Mayor de Blasio issued a deceptive Memorandum in Support of NY State Assembly bill A.6543, which proposes to amend the current and unfair pension "buyback" credit system for state and municipal employees to only add veterans of the war in Afghanistan to the long and convoluted eligibility criteria for this earned benefit.

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Mayor de Blasio's Reversal on the Veterans Equality Act

Mayor de Blasio seems to think that veterans are too expensive to receive the benefits they've earned. Today we learned that he has issued yet another Memorandum of Opposition to the Veterans Equality Act--this, after he held a special press event just before Memorial Day to announce that this time he would support it. Which is it, Mr. Mayor?

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Stop the Closure of 12 West at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center on July 1

Time is short, so we have to act quickly.

Please do the following as soon as possible:

  1. Sign our petition of the Obama administration.
  2. Contact Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand.
  3. Contact your Representative in Congress.

We need to let our representatives in Washington, D.C., know that IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE to reduce access to inpatient hospitalization for New York City's veterans for the simple reason that veterans' healthcare is too expensive. Please make your voice heard and demand that the Veterans Health Administration NOT close 12 West at the Brooklyn VAMC on July 1. The VHA must seek other outcomes and solutions that do not limit access to healthcare for veterans who choose the Brooklyn VAMC as their local and preferred healthcare facility.

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Remarks at City Hall: NYC Veterans Alliance Stands with the Public Advocate

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:

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Testimony on PTSD Awareness

On June 16, Kristen L. Rouse testified at the City Council Veterans Committee hearing on a proposed resolution to recognize the month of June as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month in New York City, which parallels a U.S. Senate resolution recognizing the same nationally. Last week we stood with Veterans Committee Chair Eric Ulrich, MOVA Commissioner Loree Sutton, and veteran leaders and advocates on the steps of City Hall, united in the cause of supporting this important resolution. We further offered the following testimony:

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"No Veteran Should Ever Feel Alone with PTSD"

Yesterday we stood together at City Hall for the cause of PTSD awareness. Council Member Eric Ulrich, who chairs the City Council Veterans Committee, has introduced a resolution declaring June as PTSD awareness month for the city, which parallels a U.S. Senate resolution recognizing the same nationally.
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Declaring June 10 as PTSD Awareness Day in NYC

June is nationally recognized as PTSD Awareness Month, and tomorrow representatives from NYC government and the NYC veterans community will meet on the steps of City Hall to declare June 10 as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day in New York City.

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Memorial Day and Mayor de Blasio’s Missed Opportunities

On Memorial Day, many of us took time out to remember fallen comrades and the many more we lost later to the physical and mental injuries that followed them from the battlefield. Whether we chose to attend a commemorative parade or ceremony, or decorate military graves, or reflect as we enjoyed time with friends and family—this was a holiday for collective remembrance. It then came as a surprise that the de Blasio administration would choose Memorial Day to run an op-ed in the NY Daily News stating for the first time that the administration explicitly does not support the creation of a Department of Veterans Affairs for NYC.

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Response to Mayor de Blasio's Veterans Press Event

Last night we were pleased to see the Mayor’s office press release saying he will meet this morning for the first time since taking office eighteen months ago with the city’s Veterans Advisory Board along with senior military leaders in honor of Fleet Week and Memorial Day. This is a positive first step toward bridging the divide between Mayor de Blasio and the 220,000+ veterans and the 250,000 more spouses, dependents, and other family members of veterans who reside in NYC.

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Testimony on Oversight of the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs

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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Testimony on Veterans Liaisons and NYC Employment of Veterans and Military Reservists

On April 29, Kristen L. Rouse testified at the City Council Veterans Committee hearing that discussed the oversight of Veterans Liaisons appointed by each NYC government agency. It was discussed at the hearing that the role of agency Veterans Liaisons is unclear. In 2013, when Mayor Bloomberg signed this requirement into law, he stated:
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Statement at Veterans Advisory Board Meeting

Last night was the first NYC Veterans Advisory Board meeting ever open to the public. We applaud the important reforms that led to this meeting, and to the appointment of new VAB members. Previous members of the VAB were present, as well as new members. The meeting was chaired by the Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA), Loree Sutton.

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Tonight, 6:30 PM: Veterans Advisory Board (VAB) Meeting

If you can, please attend this evening’s meeting of the Veterans Advisory Board (VAB) at the NYC Family Justice Center at 80 Centre Street in Manhattan, Fifth Floor (Access to the building after 5pm is from 10 Hogan Place.). The meeting will begin as a closed session with previous appointees and those newly appointed, and the meeting opens its doors to the public at 6:30 pm.

Reform of the Veterans Advisory Board is something we pushed for with City Council, and we’re proud to have played a role in the

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Remarks at City Hall: NYC Veterans Alliance Calls on Mayor de Blasio to Be Our Mayor, Too

Remarks delivered by Kristen L. Rouse in front of City Hall on April 16, 2015:

New York City has an incredible history of taking pride in its military and veterans—from the battles fought on this soil in the American Revolution to the hundreds of thousands of troops who packed on crowded ships in New York Harbor, bound for wars overseas—to now being home of the largest Veterans Day parade in the country. New Yorkers have always been proud of their veterans—even providing City-subsidized housing like Peter Cooper Village in Stuyvesant Town, where tens of thousands of veterans returning from World War II and their families benefited from the City’s effort to welcome veterans home from war and integrate them as vital citizens of the greatest city in the world.

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NYC VETERANS UNITY RALLY

Fellow Veterans and Supporters,

I have an urgent request: If at all possible, please join me and other veteran advocates on the steps in front of City Hall TOMORROW, April 16th at 3:00PM for a rally to call on Mayor de Blasio, the City Council, and the rest of our City government to do more for NYC’s veterans. We’ll be present with IAVA, VFW, VVA, and other important advocates—and it’s vital that we show both unity and strength in numbers.

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Statement on New Appointees to the Veterans Advisory Board

This morning Mayor de Blasio will release the names of the new appointees to the Veterans Advisory Board (VAB), a long-overdue measure following important reforms passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor de Blasio last month. While we are pleased to see fresh faces on the VAB--including our own NYC Veterans Alliance advisory board member, former Army combat medic and current student veteran advocate Samuel Innocent--we are disappointed that important veteran advocates from the NYC community are not represented among the appointees.

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Testimony on Veterans' Education Through SUNY Credits Act

On March 19, the NYC Veterans Alliance was honored to have Samuel Innocent testify in support of the NYC Council's resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign the Veterans' Education Through SUNY Credits Act. Innocent is a former Army sergeant and combat medic who has gone on to become an advocate for student veterans both as a student and now as a professional. He shared some of his powerful personal story in his testimony to illustrate the importance of legislation that ensures all NY State institutions properly grant credit where it is due for military education and experience.

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Samuel Innocent testifies before the NYC Council on March 19, 2015

 

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Survey & Success!

Just a few weeks ago, we launched the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities, and we are well over 400 responses thus far. We’re hoping for even more, so we’re keeping the survey open until Friday, March 13.

 

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Statement at City Council Speaker's Press Conference

Success!! Yesterday the NYC Council passed three bills (Ints. 611, 619, & 600) that the NYC Veterans Alliance pushed for, discussed at length, and testified on earlier this month. This was a proud day for us, and we were invited to attend Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's press conference on these important reforms. Council Members Ulrich, Eugene, and Vallone all spoke in detail on these bills that they helped to develop with community input, and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito introduced Kristen Rouse to speak as a veteran advocate who helped with pushing these bills toward their final passage yesterday.

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Kristen Rouse speaking at City Hall alongside Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members Ulrich, Eugene, and Vallone.

 

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Testimony on Establishing Manhattan Veterans Treatment Court

On Wednesday, the NYC Council held a hearing on NYC's Veterans Treatment Courts in City Hall's Committee Room. Aynisa Leonardo, an experienced clinician who has served veterans for more than eight years, and who also has extensive experience with clients in the Veterans Treatment Courts operating in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, testified on behalf of the NYC Veterans Alliance, and represented your responses thus far on the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Priorities. It was a long, but important hearing, and Aynisa followed testimony by a number of judges and government officials, to include Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and a U.S. Army veteran asked to read the statement of Public Advocate Letitia James in support of establishing a Veterans Treatment Court in Manhattan.

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Gotham Gazette: Council Passes Three Bills to Improve Services for Military Veterans

The NYC Veterans Alliance was featured in the Gotham Gazette article listed below, written by Kristen Meriwether:

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Testimony on Reforming the VAB and Tracking Veterans Receiving NYC Services

You've responded to the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities, and your voice has already been heard by public officials. Yesterday was the first-ever testimony of the NYC Veterans Alliance in a City Council hearing, and we were definitely heard.

 

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Preliminary Survey Results: Week One

It's been one week since we launched the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities, and the response has been an overwhelming success--thanks to each of you who took the survey and encouraged your friends, family members, and colleagues to participate. The survey will remain open until the end of February 2015, and the full results will be made public in early March.

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2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters of the NYC Veterans Alliance:

We are pleased to announce the release of the 2015 Survey of NYC Veterans Policy Priorities. We invite all veterans, family members, service providers, and civilians who care about veterans in the NYC Metro area to take this survey. We also ask that you please forward the survey link to anyone you think might be interested in having a voice on NYC veterans policy. The survey takes only about ten or fifteen minutes, and it will be open for responses through the end of February.

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