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BREAKING: NYC Veterans Alliance Advances Naming of 'Margaret Corbin VA Medical Center'

Today the NYC Veterans Alliance announces that U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) will be introducing legislation to name the Manhattan VA as the Margaret Corbin VA Medical Center in honor of the first woman veteran who fought and was wounded in combat in the U.S. Armed Forces.

At 2:00 PM on Friday, November 16th, the NYC Veterans Alliance will hold a press conference at Fort Tryon Park following a 12-mile "ruck" march from lower Manhattan to Washington Heights to commemorate the Battle of Fort Washington, which took place on November 16th, 1776. Members and allies of the NYC Veterans Alliance will call on our Congressional delegation to co-sponsor and pass this legislation before the end of this Congressional session. Congressional, state, and local officials are offering their support for this initiative.

On November 16th, 1776, Margaret Corbin was noted as the first woman to "take a soldier's part" in combat as the last cannoneer firing against British and Hessian forces in the Battle of Fort Washington before being severely wounded. She was recognized for her heroic acts and was the first woman paid and pensioned as a soldier and veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. At a time when women veterans are accessing VA services at lower rates than their male counterparts, and they still face a VA that states its scope of service as caring for "him who shall have borne the battle, his widow, and his orphan," and facilities that often do not fully accommodate their needs--the NYC Veterans Alliance has proposed for the Manhattan VA to be named in honor of Margaret Corbin. This would make the Manhattan VA the first VA hospital named for a woman veteran, and signal to women veterans that their service is both recognized and welcomed by the VA. A detailed report on the importance of this action is available HERE

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Standing Against Discrimination in the Military

Every move toward inclusion in the U.S. military has met with political and social resistance, even from veterans' organizations. Whether it was racial desegregation, integration of women, or repealing "don't ask, don't tell"--controversial moves toward inclusion of qualified servicemembers have nevertheless made our nation's military stronger and more inclusive of our nation's richly diverse talent, perspectives, and skillsets. Ensuring that qualified transgender troops can continue to serve in the military is no less controversial--and no less critical. 

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Survey on VA Hospitals in NYC

We deserve VA hospitals that ALL New Yorkers can be proud of. In a city renowned for some of the best medical facilities in America--our VA hospitals should likewise be among the best in the nation. Thanks to the many dedicated professionals who work at VA medical centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, we consistently hear many positives about the care veterans are receiving. According to the VA's own latest hospital ratings, Bronx and Manhattan hospitals both rate 4 out of 5 stars. Brooklyn rates 3 out of 5. That's pretty good. But we also look to other hospitals--like upstate in Bath, NY--that rate 5 out of 5 stars. We believe our VA hospitals in NYC can be 5 stars, too--and that all of our city's veterans should be able to look to NYC facilities for top-quality care. 

See below for our new survey!

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Latest on Brooklyn & Manhattan VA Hospitals

This week, we're able to bring our community updates on the VA NY Harbor Healthcare System (VANYHHS), which includes the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Medical Centers. We are grateful to Congressman Dan Donovan for his leadership in bringing the concerns of Brooklyn and Staten Island veterans directly to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and VANYHHS Director Martina Parauda. With his office's permission, we are including the notes from his recent meetings here. Also included below are notes on this week's Town Hall with Director Parauda at the Manhattan VA. 

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VA Must Welcome ALL Veterans

At a time when the VA itself is reporting that 70% of veterans who have died by suicide have not been in recent VA care, and that women veterans in particular are nearly twice as likely as other veterans to die by suicide--it is essential that the VA do all that it can to mitigate the crisis of veteran suicide by ensuring that ALL veterans are welcomed in to receive quality care. 

While the VA has made great strides in making programs and care more accessible, the VA has nevertheless firmly resisted the most basic way of welcoming in all veterans--to simply acknowledge them in the VA motto.

 

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Veteran Suicide Remains a Crisis in NY and US

Last week, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released national and state-level findings from its most recent analysis of Veteran suicide data, from 2005 to 2016. Key points include: 

-- An average of 20 current or former service members die each day—a rate of 30.1 per 100,000. This is more than twice the rate of our civilian counterparts. 

-- Of these 20 veteran suicides per day, six have received recent VA health care and 14 have not.

-- Rates of suicide were highest among younger Veterans (ages 18-34) and lowest among older Veterans (ages 55 and older). However, because the older Veteran population is the largest, this group accounted for 58.1 percent of Veteran suicide deaths in 2016.

-- The rate of suicide among 18-34-year-old Veterans continues to increase -- The use of firearms as a method of suicide is high and increasing. The percentage of suicide deaths that involved firearms was 67.0 percent in 2015 and 69.4 percent in 2016.

In the State of New York, the rate of veteran suicides is 19.0 per 100,000—significantly lower than the national average. This also corresponds with New York having an overall lower suicide rate (general population) than the national average. But it must be noted that New York’s veteran suicide rate of 19.0 is significantly higher than rate of suicide for New York's general population, which is 10.4.

What this new data makes clear is that veteran suicide continues to be a crisis in New York as well as the U.S. as a whole.

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Pushing Against Closures at Brooklyn VA Town Hall

brooklynvatownhall.jpgFollowing outcry by veterans who rely on the Brooklyn VA Hospital for care, Martina Parauda, Director of the VA NY Harbor Healthcare System (VANYHHS), took questions for more than two hours in a standing-room-only Town Hall at the Brooklyn VA on Wednesday, July 18. 

Last month, a coalition of veterans organizations, led by President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 72, Danny Friedman, sent a letter to Director Parauda and Joan McInerney, Director of the Veteran Integrated Services Network (VISN) overseeing NY and NJ, asking them to hold a town hall to answer questions from veterans about facilities closures and reductions in services at the Brooklyn VA Hospital in recent years. The letter is HERE.

VISN Director McInerney declined to attend, but Director Parauda agreed to host the July 18 Town Hall, to which political officials and members of the media were invited.

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Including Veterans & Families in the City Charter

The City Charter defines in its seventy-five chapters the roles and responsibilities of our city officials, agencies, offices, boards, bureaus, and commissions. Yet as of summer 2018, only one active chapter mentions veterans, military members, and their families: Chapter 75, which defines the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services and the Veterans Advisory Board.

The City Charter revision efforts set forth by the Mayor and City Council in 2018 offer an opportunity for the whole of our city government to better reflect how integral our veterans, servicemembers, and families are to our city’s social and economic fabric by integrating our community’s needs and priorities in the City Charter.

Based on the priorities of our members and our 2018 Action Agenda, we urge the NYC Charter Revision Commission to include the following revisions:

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Air Force Veteran Now Serves as Director of Community Outreach

adrienne_nyse.JPGAdrienne Brammer, a 14-year veteran of the United States Air Force, is newly promoted into the role of Director of Community Outreach for the NYC Veterans Alliance. As the first staff member to join the newly formed NYC Veterans Alliance, Adrienne has served for nearly three years building and developing the regional community calendar and information hub, OurVeterans.NYC.

Last fall, Adrienne was honored for her innovative, steadfast service to NYC veterans and families with the 2017 "Service to Veterans" award by the United War Veterans Council, presented at the New York Stock Exchange. Building upon her tremendous service and dedication, Adrienne is now taking on further programmatic development of the Alliance's digital platforms as well as building and strengthening community partnerships more broadly across the NYC veterans community as the Director of Community Outreach.

Adrienne has served on Air Force bases across the U.S., South Korea, Iceland, and Italy, as well as serving as combat videographer in Iraq and Afghanistan, often accompanying troops on convoys and foot patrols.

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Will Robert Wilkie Support ALL Veterans?

wilkie.jpgToday the president's nominee for the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, appears before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and we raise concerns about his nomination based on information about Mr. Wilkie that has come to light in the media over the past 24 hours. We hope to hear today from Mr. Wilkie that he sincerely supports ALL veterans--regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics that are fundamental to veterans' personal identities. Veterans need to know that the VA, from the top down, is ready to provide quality, bias-free care and benefits for all those who have served our nation.

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