January 14, 2021 - Yesterday, as the nation watched as he was impeached for the second time, President Donald J. Trump signed into law H.R. 1925 / S. 898 (now known as Public Law No: 116-331), which is the culmination of more than two years of steadfast advocacy by NYC veterans and allies. This new law designates the Manhattan Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System of the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Margaret Cochran Corbin Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System, the first VA Medical Center to be named in honor of a woman who served as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
This couldn't have taken place at a more important time. Now more than ever, America needs to see that military veterans have a diverse history and legacy, and that today's military and veterans' community represents all backgrounds and walks of life, and especially so in New York City. NYC Veterans Alliance members, men and women of diverse backgrounds, walked the halls of our nation's Capitol as professionals seeking passage of this law in accordance with the processes laid out in the United States Constitution and the body of laws derived from it. This result of lawful advocacy and Constitutional processes stands in stark contrast to the inexcusably violent, hateful, and seditious insurrection that took place just one week ago.
There is no more fitting choice for naming the VA Medical Center in Manhattan and the first VA medical center named for a woman veteran than Margaret Cochran Corbin. On November 16, 1776, Corbin stood by her husband in the Battle of Fort Washington in Washington Heights, Manhattan, then quickly took over as cannoneer against the British when he fell in battle. She was touted by witnesses as having excellent aim and manning the last cannon fired in the battle. Corbin was struck down by enemy fire, sustaining severe injuries that rendered her left arm unusable for the rest of her life. On July 6, 1779, the Continental Congress awarded Corbin a military pension for her service, and she spent the rest of her life in the corps of wounded soldiers at West Point, New York. As a woman veteran who fought valiantly, sustained a lifelong battle-induced disability, and received a military pension, she epitomizes the care VA provides for those who borne the battle.
Following a presidential administration that has pushed back against calls for modifying the VA motto to be inclusive of our nation's long history of women and gender-nonconforming veterans, NYC Veterans Alliance calls on other national, state, and local veteran advocacy organizations to press for military and VA institutions to highlight the names and legacies of those who have fought and sacrificed for American ideals who have for too long gone unknown or unnoticed. Women, Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ, immigrants, people of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds have rich legacies of service to our nation, and their names and stories should be elevated, especially after the haunting return of symbols of the Confederacy, racial violence, and genocide touted by individuals claiming to be "patriots." VA has done tremendous work to improve outreach and services to all those who have borne the battle. Representation of women and minority veterans in VA facility names and key messaging is essential to welcoming in historically marginalized and under-served populations of veterans.
We sincerely thank Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Chuck Schumer for sponsoring this bill in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Jerry Nadler for their original co-sponsorship of this bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. We are appreciative of the support of the entire New York State Congressional delegation, as well as state and local elected officials who additionally voiced their support, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, NYS Senator Liz Krueger, NYS Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, NYS Assembly Member Al Taylor, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera, as well as the NYS Division of Veterans' Services and NYC Department of Veterans' Services.
We are truly grateful for the advocacy and support of all of our members and supporters who enabled passage of this bill, as well as for the organizations that signed on in support: American Legion Department of New York, Disabled Veterans of America Department of New York, FDNY Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12033, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America, New York Legal Assistance Group, Service Women's Action Network, Veteran Advocacy Project, and United Spinal Association. We are also grateful to GenEquality, New Leaf Restaurant, and Backward Flag Brewing Company in their enthusiasm and support for our advocacy.
In November 2018, we commemorated Corbin's service and sacrifice with a 12-mile march from Fraunces Tavern to Fort Tryon Park, where we held a press conference announcing the introduction of legislation honoring Margaret Corbin. Check out coverage on National Public Radio and NY1.
Read more in our policy brief and letters of support.
This bill was originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer. It is supported by NY State Sen. Brad Hoylman, NY State Sen. Liz Krueger, NYS Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera, Commissioner of NYC Veterans' Services Loree Sutton, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veteran Advocacy Project, Service Women's Action Network, and New York Legal Assistance Group. It is also supported by United Spinal Association, whose former CEO James J. Peters is the namesake of the Bronx VA Medical Center.
Thanks to everyone who has taken part in getting this bill passed!