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.
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.
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: