Civic Leadership Program
Our members are the core of our work to write and speak up on important issues, determine our policy priorities, design solutions to the problems we face, and lead events to increase civic engagement.
Veterans of any service era or discharge status, servicemembers, family members, service providers, and civilian allies are all invited to join and participate as members. JOIN US HERE
Learn more about our Civic Leadership work below:
by Elana Duffy
Last Friday was a busy day for VA Secretary Shulkin: New legislation for enhanced whistleblower protections and shortened investigative and termination procedures for VA employees was signed into effect, indicating a welcome change in administrative practices to ensure improved quality of service through ensuring the right people with the right priorities are in the right positions.
Following the signature, Secretary Shulkin spoke to the press on issues beyond the bill, hinting at his new direction for VA healthcare. It was during this impromptu presser that Shulkin uttered the words “Our system incentivizes disability, when our system should be incentivizing health and well-being."
On Friday, April 28, 2017, the NYC Veterans Alliance, in partnership with Civic Hall and Veterans Campaign, hosted a Conversation on Service-Driven Political Leadership featuring Hon. Patrick Murphy, the first post-9/11 veteran elected to the U.S. Congress, and Hon. Charles Rangel, a decorated Korean War veteran who served 46 years in Congress.
Mr. Murphy talked with us about his service as a Solider in Iraq, followed by his service in the U.S. Congress from 2007 to 2011, as well as his work as Acting Secretary and then Undersecretary of the United States Army 2016-2017. Mr. Rangel told us some of his lesser-told stories of service in the Korean War, including his harrowing experience in the Battle of Kunu-ri and his actions as a private first class for which he was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor.
by Elana Duffy
Secretary Shulkin and his team at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) have been busy. From recent bills passed to upgrade Bad Paper Discharges to the extension of the VA Choice Program, VA is certainly not sitting still.
These were easy wins. Expanded access to mental health care, reducing mental health stigma with the re-evaluation of behavioral discharges for those diagnosed with PTSD, and extending Choice were no-brainers. That these wins were easy does not diminish their value; these programs and policies were needed victories. But they were easy upgrades, like downloading the latest smartphone operating system to improve performance: small changes with moderate impact.
So now I would like to see VA not just upgrade the operating system but rewire the network. I want them to take on a challenge that isn’t so easy, but one that attacks a root condition so time and money spent implementing yields huge results.
by Jeremy Warneke
Who or what is a United States military veteran? If you’re a veteran, you may know the answer or think you know. But do you?
According to a 2012 Congressional Research Service Report, “a veteran is defined as a ‘person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.’”
I didn’t always know that.
As Ted Puntillo, director of Veteran Services for Solano County, California, said in 2013, “Some people with an honorable discharge do not think they are a veteran because they only served for two years, did not serve in combat or were not injured in the service. Women and people who served honorably in the National Guard and Reserves are often unsure of their status."
Throughout our history, the voices of our veterans and families have been essential in conversations on American democracy, governance, and the role of everyday Americans in protecting and preserving our values and systems of civil society. This is why we're proud to partner with the veterans and civilians of Aquila Theatre and The Warrior Chorus in their NYC production of Our Trojan War.
As part of our Civic Engagement program, we're organizing and leading "talk back" panels following each performance of this important and timely exploration of ancient and modern concepts of democracy, freedom, leadership, and citizenship. The play itself was crafted by veterans, and veterans are among the cast members. Our talk back conversations will be interactive with the audience on themes of the play. Please join us for these special performances and conversations with veteran artists, activists, and leaders! Ticket information is below.
by William Michael Day
In March 2017, William Michael Day was denied life insurance because of his PTSD diagnosis. He began asking his friends if they've had similar experiences, and he took it upon himself to research the situation to examine the legality and consequences of when veterans like himself are denied life insurance because of PTSD or other diagnoses. The result is a thoughtful exploration of how mental health and insurance intersect, and the real-life consequences of those intersections for veterans and their families.
by Alexander McCoy
Yesterday in New York City, Timothy Caughman, a black man who also was known by the nickname “Hard Rock,” was ruthlessly murdered by an Army veteran. The killer told NYPD investigators that he traveled from Baltimore explicitly to kill black men, and that he had harbored intense, racist hatred for a decade, which means his hateful aggression overlapped and accelerated during his service in the Army as a military intelligence specialist.
As we remember the life of Timothy Caughman, and other black lives lost to racist violence, members of the veteran community need to grapple with what it means that his killer was a veteran.
The first temptation is to dismiss it, or blame the media for highlighting the killer’s service. To be sure, the Army did not give him this murderous mission, or glorify his racist ideology. But what bothers me is that our community does so little to actively speak out against the kind of hate that this crime represents.
by Jessica Apgar
If there is one thing Congressman Seth Moulton and President Trump have in common, it’s that they both have great Twitter game. The tech-savvy Representative of the 6th Congressional District of Massachusetts recently visited New York City’s Civic Hall for an IBM Think Leaders discussion about how technology has changed government and politics. Rep. Moulton is a multi-tour combat veteran and among the best of our generation in bridging the partisan divide in Congress. Before Rep. Moulton took the stage at Civic Hall, the NYC Veterans Alliance Fellows were offered a unique and exclusive meeting with the Congressman. In January, the Fellows spent four days of intensive training in Washington, D.C., on how to run for elected office and are currently planning a NYC Veteran Candidate Workshop in April, so the Fellows happily engaged Rep. Moulton with questions. Rep. Moulton spoke candidly with us about his decision to run for office, his underdog race, and what it’s like to be a post-9/11 veteran serving in Congress.
by Ksenia Voropaeva and Molly Pearl
In January, we selected six veterans and one veteran spouse & caregiver as Fellows in our Get Ready to Run program and brought them to Washington, D.C., for four days of intensive training on how to run for elected office. This is a year-long Fellowship, and our Fellows continue to be involved and grow as leaders and advocates. Some of our Fellows were part of our Lobby Week last month. Here’s what two of them had to say about it:
This past Wednesday, it was announced that Bryan Doerries has been named the new Public Artist in Residence with the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs on a 2-year grant of $1.3 million to fund artistic productions of ancient Greek drama that bring veterans and civilians together in community dialogue and healing.
NYC's Aquila Theatre produced Sophocles' "Philoctetes" with veterans as paid cast & contributors
We commend the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services for their commitment to promoting public dialogue on veterans issues through the arts. Those of us who have taken part in our community’s amazing and diverse artistic productions in recent years can attest to the transformative power of art and dialogue in our own lives. Yet we are concerned that this large grant and public program elevates an artist and production model that, although outwardly successful, are yet notable for specific problem areas:
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