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John Oliver at the Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

John Oliver speaks about his experience as the husband of an Army veteran who served in Iraq at the Forum on NYC Veterans Policy at the New York Public Library. It's too easy, he says, to just say "thank you" to veterans without making the changes needed to the infrastructure that should be taking care of them.

 

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance

July 28, 2015 at the New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: Veteran Advocacy

Moderator Phoebe Gavin (U.S. Army, Iraq Veteran) introduces panelists Lee Covino (U.S. Army, Vietnam Veteran), Coco Culhane (Civilian, Founder of Veteran Advocacy Project), Brett Morash (U.S. Navy, Pre- and Post-9/11 Veteran), Tireak Tulloch (U.S. Marine Corps, Iraq Veteran), and Vadim Panasyuk (U.S. Army, Iraq Veteran). Panelists discuss getting involved in veteran advocacy.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: NYC Veterans

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses the current state of affairs for NYC veterans with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk. Topics include veteran homelessness, the need for cohesive programs acting as a social safety net for veterans, the needs of different generations of veterans, and how defining "veteran" limits access to services and programs.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: Veteran Activism

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses veteran activism with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk. Topics include post-9/11 veterans organizing together, veterans engaging civilians, and ways to engage family members and the broader community.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: Veteran Homelessness

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses the ongoing challenges of veteran homelessness in NYC with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: Veterans at Risk

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses how to better serve at-risk veterans with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: VA Payments and NYC Landlords

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses an audience question about VA payments being counted as income by NYC landlords with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: VA Home Loans

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses an audience question about using VA home loans in NYC with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: Military Reservists

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses the unique challenges faced by Reservists with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

Panel Discussion: Women Veterans

Moderator Phoebe Gavin discusses an audience question about women veterans with panelists Lee Covino, Coco Culhane, Brett Morash, Tireak Tulloch, and Vadim Panasyuk.

Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

Presented by the NYC Veterans Alliance
July 28, 2015 - New York Public Library

John Oliver at the Forum on NYC Veterans Policy

We are very excited to announce a special guest at Tuesday’s FORUM ON NYC VETERANS POLICY:

John Oliver, Emmy-winning writer, renowned comedian, and host of the Peabody Award-winning HBO news-satire show, Last Week Tonight, will make a special appearance on Tuesday evening. A great supporter of veterans causes, John has volunteered his time to entertain troops and veterans, and to perform at charity fundraisers benefiting veterans and their families. John is the husband of an Army veteran who served in Iraq, and is a valued member of our NYC veterans community. We greatly appreciate his appearance at our event to highlight the importance of NYC veterans policy in the lives of our city’s veterans, service members, and their families.

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Announcement! July 28: FORUM ON NYC VETERANS POLICY

Fellow Veterans, Friends, and Colleagues,

On Tuesday, July 28, the NYC Veterans Alliance is proud to present the FORUM ON NYC VETERANS POLICY at the New York Public Library:

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"Soft Rollout" of IDNYC's Veteran Designation - Go Get One, But Be Prepared

The good news is that NYC government has finally implemented the veteran designation we were promised last year by Mayor de Blasio, and that we’ve gotten exactly what we asked for in the Change is Essential report we released last month, plus a several additional benefits. We appreciate all the work that MOVA and many dedicated officials at City Hall and the City Council put into what we believe to be a very solid program that recognizes NYC veterans in accordance with the City Charter. This is a good thing.

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Progress, Although More to Do on Veteran Homelessness in NYC

Even as overall homelessness in NYC has risen to an all-time high under Mayor de Blasio, there has been considerable progress in reducing veteran homelessness due to robust resources from the federal government to tackle the problem nationwide. A Capital New York article this week touted NYC's successes in reducing veteran homelessness:

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Veteran ID Cards: Feds Ahead of NYC?

Veterans have long wanted an easier way to prove their veteran status than carrying around copies of their DD214s, and it looks like the federal government is on the verge of passing legislation to create official veterans ID cards, separate from Veterans Health Administration ID cards issued only to veterans that meet eligibility requirements for health care. Read this morning's news story about this here.

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Oversight of NYC Funds Going to Veterans Organizations

Last week the City Council released the list of organizations to receive discretionary funds for Fiscal Year 2016 for providing veterans services. These are critical funds, and organizations have provided valuable direct assistance and services to veterans in NYC. These funds provided by the City Council are entirely separate from the budget of the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA), and are not overseen in any formal way by MOVA.

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2016 Budget Increase for Veterans: Not Victory, But An Important Step Forward

Following pressure from the NYC Veterans Alliance, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and veterans and advocates across NYC, our city government has responded by including more funding for veterans and veterans services in the 2016 budget. This is truly an important step forward, and we appreciate the many City Council members who pushed for the funding increase, and we appreciate that Mayor de Blasio has, at long last, finally supported these additions to the budget. But we must be clear: NYC still has a long way yet to go before we can declare victory.

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Update on Veterans Equality Act: Action Still Needed

Thanks to your encouragement of NY State Assembly members, the Veterans Equality Act passed the Assembly with only one dissenting vote, and will head to Governor Cuomo for him to sign. Although the bill passed unanimously in the NY State Senate and nearly unanimously in the Assembly--we could still see a repeat of what happened last fall when Mayor de Blasio lobbied against this earned benefit for veterans and the Governor vetoed it.

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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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