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VA Must Welcome ALL Veterans

 

300_manhattanva_motto.jpgAt 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

 

300_suicideactivation.jpgIn late September, 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.

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Pushing Against Closures at Brooklyn VA Town Hall

 

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Following 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

 

300_charterrevision.jpgThe 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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Standing Up for Veteran Street Vendors

Today's NYC Council Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing held a hearing on three different bills proposing to restrict access of street vendors around the World Trade Center and downtown Flushing, as well as a ban on a certain type of char-broiler used by food vendors. Details of the hearing and these bills are HERE.

As part of our 2018 Action Agenda, we are continuing to speak up for veteran street vendors. We were unable to attend today's hearing, but submitted the following letter to the committee:

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Wins for Veterans & Families in FY 2019 City Budget

Today the NYC Council released the finalized Fiscal Year 2019 Budget for the City of New York, which contains important wins for veterans and families! Here are the highlights:

 

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Rep. Donovan Joins NYC Veterans Alliance, VVA Ch 72, and IAVA in Opposing Clinic Closure at Brooklyn VA

On June 1, Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11) joined NYC Veterans Alliance, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 72, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in opposition to further closures and reductions at the Brooklyn VA Hospital. As with last year's plan to close outpatient surgeries at the Brooklyn VA, the plan to close the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) clinic this month comes as yet another reduction of services for veterans who rely on this crucial facility. View the full video here:

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NYC Veterans Alliance Members Lead Advocacy for Voting Reform

voterday_1.jpgOn Tuesday, May 8th, NYC Veterans Alliance joined with the NYC Campaign Finance Board and more than 100 advocates with the Vote Better NY Coalition to advocate for vital reforms to bring New York State's voting laws into the 21st century.

Five of our members served as team captains, leading meetings with NYS legislators and staff on a busy day in Albany. Our member Troy Olson spoke eloquently at our press conference in the Capitol's stairway:

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