Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/joe-bello 2017-12-12T00:46:48+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Long-Awaited, City's New Approach to Veterans Services Moves Ahead 2016-11-06T04:00:00+00:00 2016-11-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6613:long-awaited-city-s-new-approach-to-veterans-services-moves-ahead Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/sutton_buery_veterans_city_hall.jpg" alt="sutton buery veterans city hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Commissioner Sutton, left, at a City Hall ceremony (photo: @RichardBuery)</p> <hr /> <p>With Veterans Day approaching, veterans advocates in New York say they want to see the long-term vision of the newly created city Department of Veterans’ Services and how its Commissioner plans to tackle the most significant, persistent issues affecting the city’s military veterans.</p> <p>More than 210,000 veterans live in New York City, making it one of the largest veteran populations in the nation, more so than some entire states. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has committed additional resources and funding to address veterans’ concerns and challenges. The City Council has been actively pursuing veteran-friendly policy, including the legislation that elevated the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs into the new Department of Veterans’ Services (after initial objections from de Blasio).</p> <p>The Department of Veterans’ Services launched in April and has been operating with its expanded budget since the July start of the new fiscal year, boosting its staff and ramping up operations. The department is well on its way to full deployment in the next few months, said Commissioner Loree Sutton in an interview with Gotham Gazette at the agency’s main office at One Center Street, across from City Hall.</p> <p>Sutton laid out her priorities and the “non-negotiable core services” that the department is focused on: housing and support services, an integrative healthcare program, and the E3 initiative (education, employment and entrepreneurship). “For the first time, we’ll finally have the capacity to not only establish a citywide presence but be able to engage in these three lines of action,” she said.</p> <p>The department now has 24 employees, up from four in June of 2015, and will add another ten by the start of 2017. With an eye towards having a presence in all five boroughs, it now has a satellite office in Queens and will set up offices in all the boroughs within the next three months. “We have been very dedicated to the process of designing a new agency,” said Sutton, “And really taking the time that we needed not just to fill slots but really build a team. We’re also creating a culture, a culture that honors the aspirations and the dreams of so many veterans here in New York City from years and years.”</p> <p>The department’s priorities align with what veteran advocates have long demanded, and they praise Sutton’s leadership for it. Recognizing that the department is young, advocates do say they would like to see a clear articulation of those priorities through outreach to the veteran community. “It takes time to build out so of course some of the veterans in the outer boroughs are wondering, ‘Where is it?’, but it’s growing,” said Joe Bello, a Navy veteran and member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board, shortly after a recent hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Veterans.</p> <p>“There needs to be something about what the city is actually offering vets,” he added, saying the department should consider creating a resource guide to its services in order to reach out to veterans and their families.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, said the new department needs to be “responsive” to veterans’ needs. “They have to not only build the plan and execute the plan, they have to build trust in the community,” she said. “This is a community that has been underserved for a very long time and so they have to be responsive, they have to build that word-of-mouth trust.”</p> <p>Rouse acknowledges, as a former city employee, that government can work slowly, but she’s encouraged by the staff the Sutton has hired, many of whom are veterans themselves. “It’s going to take some weeks and months for them to really gel as a team and to craft a plan that says, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’” Rouse said. She stressed that the department should not lose focus, however, of issues that go ignored, like affordable housing for student veterans and discrimination faced by veterans.</p> <p>“There are so many other different programs that need to be fostered,” she said, “to promote community, promote good quality of living, a sense of purpose for veterans in New York City so ultimately we’re a city that attracts veterans in the same way we attract artists, entrepreneurs.”</p> <p>Sutton, a retired Army brigadier general, explained that the department is already doing much along these lines through coordination with different city agencies and setting up a network of local service providers under its VetConnect NYC initiative, which will roll out next year. “The number one challenge that veterans and their families point to is difficulty navigating,” she said, “to find the right services, to ensure that they’re quality services, to make sure they qualify for them, that the services are even available. That’s what this network really is designed to do.”</p> <p>After the October 28 City Council veterans committee hearing, Council Member Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican who chairs the committee, told Gotham Gazette he was optimistic about the new department’s execution, but hasn’t yet seen a long-term plan for veterans from the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s even on their radar right now,” he said. He did praise the city for ending chronic veteran homelessness and emphasized the need for connecting veterans with permanent affordable housing. But Ulrich said one area where the city is failing is in providing adequate employment for veterans, “and good paying jobs, not low paying menial jobs, but jobs that reflect their skills and abilities and their talents and the things that they’ve learned in the military,” he said.</p> <p>What’s also important to consider, according to Ulrich, is the roughly 20,000 future veterans, soldiers currently in active service who will return to the city in the next five years. “I think the temptation is, on the part of the New York City government, to just supply a band-aid sometimes and treat how things are now, but we really have to come up with a long-term solution,” he said, “to make New York City a more veteran-friendly city.”</p> <p>As Sutton tells it, that long-term vision is coming together, efforts that will be highlighted this week leading up to Friday’s Veterans Day and its annual parade. “We’re in the very early stages of what will absolutely continue to be a full-court press to improve the lives of our veterans and their families,” she said. “This is what I view as an essential municipal investment.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/sutton_buery_veterans_city_hall.jpg" alt="sutton buery veterans city hall" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Commissioner Sutton, left, at a City Hall ceremony (photo: @RichardBuery)</p> <hr /> <p>With Veterans Day approaching, veterans advocates in New York say they want to see the long-term vision of the newly created city Department of Veterans’ Services and how its Commissioner plans to tackle the most significant, persistent issues affecting the city’s military veterans.</p> <p>More than 210,000 veterans live in New York City, making it one of the largest veteran populations in the nation, more so than some entire states. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has committed additional resources and funding to address veterans’ concerns and challenges. The City Council has been actively pursuing veteran-friendly policy, including the legislation that elevated the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs into the new Department of Veterans’ Services (after initial objections from de Blasio).</p> <p>The Department of Veterans’ Services launched in April and has been operating with its expanded budget since the July start of the new fiscal year, boosting its staff and ramping up operations. The department is well on its way to full deployment in the next few months, said Commissioner Loree Sutton in an interview with Gotham Gazette at the agency’s main office at One Center Street, across from City Hall.</p> <p>Sutton laid out her priorities and the “non-negotiable core services” that the department is focused on: housing and support services, an integrative healthcare program, and the E3 initiative (education, employment and entrepreneurship). “For the first time, we’ll finally have the capacity to not only establish a citywide presence but be able to engage in these three lines of action,” she said.</p> <p>The department now has 24 employees, up from four in June of 2015, and will add another ten by the start of 2017. With an eye towards having a presence in all five boroughs, it now has a satellite office in Queens and will set up offices in all the boroughs within the next three months. “We have been very dedicated to the process of designing a new agency,” said Sutton, “And really taking the time that we needed not just to fill slots but really build a team. We’re also creating a culture, a culture that honors the aspirations and the dreams of so many veterans here in New York City from years and years.”</p> <p>The department’s priorities align with what veteran advocates have long demanded, and they praise Sutton’s leadership for it. Recognizing that the department is young, advocates do say they would like to see a clear articulation of those priorities through outreach to the veteran community. “It takes time to build out so of course some of the veterans in the outer boroughs are wondering, ‘Where is it?’, but it’s growing,” said Joe Bello, a Navy veteran and member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board, shortly after a recent hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Veterans.</p> <p>“There needs to be something about what the city is actually offering vets,” he added, saying the department should consider creating a resource guide to its services in order to reach out to veterans and their families.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, said the new department needs to be “responsive” to veterans’ needs. “They have to not only build the plan and execute the plan, they have to build trust in the community,” she said. “This is a community that has been underserved for a very long time and so they have to be responsive, they have to build that word-of-mouth trust.”</p> <p>Rouse acknowledges, as a former city employee, that government can work slowly, but she’s encouraged by the staff the Sutton has hired, many of whom are veterans themselves. “It’s going to take some weeks and months for them to really gel as a team and to craft a plan that says, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’” Rouse said. She stressed that the department should not lose focus, however, of issues that go ignored, like affordable housing for student veterans and discrimination faced by veterans.</p> <p>“There are so many other different programs that need to be fostered,” she said, “to promote community, promote good quality of living, a sense of purpose for veterans in New York City so ultimately we’re a city that attracts veterans in the same way we attract artists, entrepreneurs.”</p> <p>Sutton, a retired Army brigadier general, explained that the department is already doing much along these lines through coordination with different city agencies and setting up a network of local service providers under its VetConnect NYC initiative, which will roll out next year. “The number one challenge that veterans and their families point to is difficulty navigating,” she said, “to find the right services, to ensure that they’re quality services, to make sure they qualify for them, that the services are even available. That’s what this network really is designed to do.”</p> <p>After the October 28 City Council veterans committee hearing, Council Member Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican who chairs the committee, told Gotham Gazette he was optimistic about the new department’s execution, but hasn’t yet seen a long-term plan for veterans from the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>“I don’t think it’s even on their radar right now,” he said. He did praise the city for ending chronic veteran homelessness and emphasized the need for connecting veterans with permanent affordable housing. But Ulrich said one area where the city is failing is in providing adequate employment for veterans, “and good paying jobs, not low paying menial jobs, but jobs that reflect their skills and abilities and their talents and the things that they’ve learned in the military,” he said.</p> <p>What’s also important to consider, according to Ulrich, is the roughly 20,000 future veterans, soldiers currently in active service who will return to the city in the next five years. “I think the temptation is, on the part of the New York City government, to just supply a band-aid sometimes and treat how things are now, but we really have to come up with a long-term solution,” he said, “to make New York City a more veteran-friendly city.”</p> <p>As Sutton tells it, that long-term vision is coming together, efforts that will be highlighted this week leading up to Friday’s Veterans Day and its annual parade. “We’re in the very early stages of what will absolutely continue to be a full-court press to improve the lives of our veterans and their families,” she said. “This is what I view as an essential municipal investment.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Council to Hold First Budget Hearing for New Veterans' Services Department 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6346:council-to-hold-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-services-department Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22165070704_8bd75087e3_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="city hall veterans flags" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with Commissioner Sutton (in blue) (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On Friday, the New York City Council will hold the first-ever budget hearing for the newly created Department of Veterans’ Services.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs is transitioning into the Department of Veterans’ Services, a standalone department with a distinct agency budget and providing expanded services for the city’s 225,000 military veterans. The department became official in April and will now proceed to rollout over the next year, increasing staff from a mere half-dozen to more than 30 full-time employees.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget allocates $3.84 million to the Department of Veterans’ Services, about twice as much as MOVA’s budget for the current fiscal year. Commissioner Loree Sutton has already indicated what the agency’s direction will be. Speaking at an event at LaGuardia Community College on May 2, she laid out her top strategic priorities: ending veteran homelessness; implementing elements of the city’s ThriveNYC mental health program; and promoting education, employment and entrepreneurship for veterans.</p> <p>The department has already taken a few steps in implementing these goals. To fight veteran homelessness, it has hired five peer-to-peer coordinators to undertake outreach to homeless veterans, particularly the “hidden population,” Sutton said, which includes student veterans who have difficulties accessing affordable housing. The city currently has about 432 veterans in the homeless shelter system, down from more than 3,500 six or seven years ago. Last year, the federal government certified the city as having ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning homeless veterans who remain. The department will also appoint two assistant commissioners, one to implement Thrive NYC with an eight-member team and another to connect veterans with educational and economic opportunities.</p> <p>Sutton stressed that the department is rolling out in phases. “Just because the mayor signed the legislation establishing the Department of Veteran Services last December doesn’t mean that it’s a light switch,” she said at the event. “You don’t go from five folks to 34 folks overnight.”</p> <p>Using rudimentary military terminology, she explained the process. Until July 1, the department will be in the “transitional planning and budget” phase. With the July start of the new fiscal year, the department will enter Phase II, IOC or initial operating capacity. That phase will go through the entire fiscal year. “We will ramp up to that full 33-34 positions and by July of 2017 we’ll be at FOC - full operating capacity,” Sutton said.</p> <p>“It’s exciting but we’re not going to move out in front of ourselves,” Sutton added. “We know that it’s our privilege to not just fill slots but rather to build a team, to form a family, to create a culture that can best serve the veterans and families of all five boroughs.”</p> <p>After the release of the preliminary budget, the department was initially slated for a budget hearing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6261-city-resets-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-affairs-department" target="_blank">which was later cancelled</a>. For veterans advocates, it would’ve been a chance to hear the administration’s plan to set up its new agency and identify its priorities for veteran services. Tomorrow, advocates and the Council will get those answers.</p> <p>“I’m excited to hear from the new commissioner about what her long-term vision is for the department,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “how the Council can be an effective partner in assisting the DVS in realizing this vision, and what the main priorities and goals are in the coming fiscal year.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito will attend Friday’s hearing, slated for 1 p.m. at City Hall, and deliver brief opening remarks. According to her office, the speaker will highlight the need for expanded services for the city’s veterans - the reason that the Council pushed for a new department outside the mayor's office - citing persistent challenges of mental illness, substance abuse, hunger, and unemployment.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, has many expectations of the “ambitious programs” that DVS has on the horizon and hopes to get the budget details on Friday. Rouse’s priorities, which converge largely with Sutton’s outline, include the department’s approach to communications with veterans, implementation of veteran-specific initiatives in ThriveNYC, support for homeless veterans, placement of veteran outreach counselors in every borough, improved support for veteran employees in city agencies, and job placement assistance for veterans.</p> <p>“I'm also hoping to see a solid commitment of city tax-levy dollars in addition to the federal and state funding to show that the city is truly buying in on veteran programs and not simply going after external funds, or even private or philanthropic funds,” Rouse said.</p> <p>Navy veteran Joe Bello, a member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board and founder of NY MetroVets, which seeks to keep veterans informed, is pleased with the level of funding DVS will receive. “It shows that the mayor is committed to building up the department,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing from Commissioner Sutton about what kinds of resources and services they’ll provide.”</p> <p>He did have minor concerns, however, about both the budget and Friday’s hearing. He said a vital reason that veterans advocates pushed for the new department was so that the city could ensure streamlined disbursement of funds to local nonprofit organizations that serve veterans. Those funds, he said, usually go through specific city agencies and face delays.</p> <p>“When we saw the positions they’d put forth, I didn’t see any person to handle the money for nonprofits. I’m hopeful Council Member [Eric] Ulrich will ask about that,” Bello added, referring to the chair of the Council’s veterans affairs committee, Eric Ulrich. Ulrich, Mark-Viverito, and Council Member Paul Vallone were key driving forces behind the creation of the new department, which Mayor de Blasio had initially rejected.</p> <p>Ulrich and Council finance committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland will lead Friday’s hearing. Ulrich’s office did not return requests for comment ahead of the hearing.</p> <p>Bello also said he was disappointed that the public would not be able to testify at the hearing, as is the case with all executive budget hearings. “For the first hearing ever, they should’ve given some consideration to that,” he said. “Otherwise I’m excited.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22165070704_8bd75087e3_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="city hall veterans flags" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio with Commissioner Sutton (in blue) (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On Friday, the New York City Council will hold the first-ever budget hearing for the newly created Department of Veterans’ Services.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs is transitioning into the Department of Veterans’ Services, a standalone department with a distinct agency budget and providing expanded services for the city’s 225,000 military veterans. The department became official in April and will now proceed to rollout over the next year, increasing staff from a mere half-dozen to more than 30 full-time employees.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget allocates $3.84 million to the Department of Veterans’ Services, about twice as much as MOVA’s budget for the current fiscal year. Commissioner Loree Sutton has already indicated what the agency’s direction will be. Speaking at an event at LaGuardia Community College on May 2, she laid out her top strategic priorities: ending veteran homelessness; implementing elements of the city’s ThriveNYC mental health program; and promoting education, employment and entrepreneurship for veterans.</p> <p>The department has already taken a few steps in implementing these goals. To fight veteran homelessness, it has hired five peer-to-peer coordinators to undertake outreach to homeless veterans, particularly the “hidden population,” Sutton said, which includes student veterans who have difficulties accessing affordable housing. The city currently has about 432 veterans in the homeless shelter system, down from more than 3,500 six or seven years ago. Last year, the federal government certified the city as having ended chronic veteran homelessness, meaning homeless veterans who remain. The department will also appoint two assistant commissioners, one to implement Thrive NYC with an eight-member team and another to connect veterans with educational and economic opportunities.</p> <p>Sutton stressed that the department is rolling out in phases. “Just because the mayor signed the legislation establishing the Department of Veteran Services last December doesn’t mean that it’s a light switch,” she said at the event. “You don’t go from five folks to 34 folks overnight.”</p> <p>Using rudimentary military terminology, she explained the process. Until July 1, the department will be in the “transitional planning and budget” phase. With the July start of the new fiscal year, the department will enter Phase II, IOC or initial operating capacity. That phase will go through the entire fiscal year. “We will ramp up to that full 33-34 positions and by July of 2017 we’ll be at FOC - full operating capacity,” Sutton said.</p> <p>“It’s exciting but we’re not going to move out in front of ourselves,” Sutton added. “We know that it’s our privilege to not just fill slots but rather to build a team, to form a family, to create a culture that can best serve the veterans and families of all five boroughs.”</p> <p>After the release of the preliminary budget, the department was initially slated for a budget hearing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6261-city-resets-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-affairs-department" target="_blank">which was later cancelled</a>. For veterans advocates, it would’ve been a chance to hear the administration’s plan to set up its new agency and identify its priorities for veteran services. Tomorrow, advocates and the Council will get those answers.</p> <p>“I’m excited to hear from the new commissioner about what her long-term vision is for the department,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “how the Council can be an effective partner in assisting the DVS in realizing this vision, and what the main priorities and goals are in the coming fiscal year.”</p> <p>Mark-Viverito will attend Friday’s hearing, slated for 1 p.m. at City Hall, and deliver brief opening remarks. According to her office, the speaker will highlight the need for expanded services for the city’s veterans - the reason that the Council pushed for a new department outside the mayor's office - citing persistent challenges of mental illness, substance abuse, hunger, and unemployment.</p> <p>Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group, has many expectations of the “ambitious programs” that DVS has on the horizon and hopes to get the budget details on Friday. Rouse’s priorities, which converge largely with Sutton’s outline, include the department’s approach to communications with veterans, implementation of veteran-specific initiatives in ThriveNYC, support for homeless veterans, placement of veteran outreach counselors in every borough, improved support for veteran employees in city agencies, and job placement assistance for veterans.</p> <p>“I'm also hoping to see a solid commitment of city tax-levy dollars in addition to the federal and state funding to show that the city is truly buying in on veteran programs and not simply going after external funds, or even private or philanthropic funds,” Rouse said.</p> <p>Navy veteran Joe Bello, a member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board and founder of NY MetroVets, which seeks to keep veterans informed, is pleased with the level of funding DVS will receive. “It shows that the mayor is committed to building up the department,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing from Commissioner Sutton about what kinds of resources and services they’ll provide.”</p> <p>He did have minor concerns, however, about both the budget and Friday’s hearing. He said a vital reason that veterans advocates pushed for the new department was so that the city could ensure streamlined disbursement of funds to local nonprofit organizations that serve veterans. Those funds, he said, usually go through specific city agencies and face delays.</p> <p>“When we saw the positions they’d put forth, I didn’t see any person to handle the money for nonprofits. I’m hopeful Council Member [Eric] Ulrich will ask about that,” Bello added, referring to the chair of the Council’s veterans affairs committee, Eric Ulrich. Ulrich, Mark-Viverito, and Council Member Paul Vallone were key driving forces behind the creation of the new department, which Mayor de Blasio had initially rejected.</p> <p>Ulrich and Council finance committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland will lead Friday’s hearing. Ulrich’s office did not return requests for comment ahead of the hearing.</p> <p>Bello also said he was disappointed that the public would not be able to testify at the hearing, as is the case with all executive budget hearings. “For the first hearing ever, they should’ve given some consideration to that,” he said. “Otherwise I’m excited.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Resets First Budget Hearing for New Veterans Affairs Department 2016-04-04T05:00:00+00:00 2016-04-04T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6261:city-resets-first-budget-hearing-for-new-veterans-affairs-department Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22166669023_a966c09374_z.jpg" alt="veterans outside city hall flags" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office</p> <hr /> <p>In December, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the City Council bill creating a separate, dedicated Veterans Affairs department which would take over responsibility from the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) in handling services for more than 200,000 military veterans living in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">By law, the new department will be official on April 10 and the fiscal year 2017 budget being negotiated between the de Blasio administration and the City Council will outline its first agency allocation and spending plan. The city’s fiscal year begins July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">As part of ongoing Council hearings on the mayor’s $82 billion preliminary budget, the new veterans affairs department was scheduled for a session on March 21. As is usually the case in such hearings, where agency heads and other administration officials testify before a Council committee, MOVA Commissioner Loree Sutton would have testified, Council members would have asked her questions, and advocates and members of the public would have aired their concerns.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, owing to the transition of veterans affairs from the Mayor’s Office to a full-fledged department, the hearing was deferred. “It doesn’t officially become a department in name till April 10,” said Joe Bello, a member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board, “and it doesn’t become a real department budgetary-wise till July 1. So there was really no preliminary budget to discuss.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council veterans affairs committee’s preliminary budget hearing couldn’t really occur because the mayor and his budget office had not established a budget for the new veterans affairs department in the initial spending plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, it will be taken up when the administration and City Council get down to brass tacks during executive budget negotiations. The Council will soon release its preliminary budget response, which will trigger closed-door discussions and lead to the mayor’s release of his revised spending plan later in April, followed by another round of hearings. The new veterans department is expected to be included in the executive budget and to have a budget hearing thereafter.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, the MOVA budget was $1.9 million, up from $600,000 the previous year, “the largest increase in its 29 year existence,” according to the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/vets/downloads/pdf/annual-reports/2015.pdf" target="_blank">VAB’s annual report</a>. &nbsp;Between January and July 2015, MOVA’s full-time staff increased from six to 20.</p> <p dir="ltr">The administration is also doubling down on its commitments through other initiatives. In <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/queens/news/2016/03/29/queens-gets-first-satellite-office-of-veteran-affairs.html" target="_blank">late March</a>, the first veterans affairs satellite office opened in Queens. Then, on March 28, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and MOVA <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/305-16/mayor-s-fund-advance-new-york-city-mayor-s-office-veterans-affairs-two" target="_blank">announced</a> partnerships with the private sector to end veteran homelessness, with an investment of $750,000. It’s not clear yet, however, what the total budget for fiscal 2017 will entail.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we've said, we are determining costs for the new agency and expect it to be reflected in the executive budget,” said Amy Spitalnick, spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget. “We look forward to working with the Council on this and more throughout the budget process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Spitalinick declined to provide details of what the executive budget may include.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bello from the VAB, a Navy veteran, is not worried about the preliminary budget hearing being scrapped. “As an advocate, I just want them to get it right,” he said. He expects significant increases in the budget and said the department could have as many as 35 staffers by the end of the year. “They gotta ramp up personnel. They gotta ramp up services,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">City services for military veterans include helping connect them to federal programs and often deal with housing, education, employment, and health care needs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bello spoke of the ThriveNYC mental health roadmap the city has released, which touches on veterans, and mentioned conversations with the de Blasio administration on veteran homelessness as well. He wasn’t sure if the latter would be directly tackled by the new department or remain under the purview of the Department of Homeless Services.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t know what I’m expecting,” said Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group. Rouse is a bit more skeptical than Bello, insisting on a line-by-line breakdown of the department’s budget. “They’ve never put out a policy paper saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing on veterans services and here’s how much we’re spending,’” she said. “The administration has quoted a lot of different numbers to us.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While she appreciates the administration’s initiatives, she hopes for an explanation of the budget to the veterans community and outreach for advice from veterans once a hearing is set. “I would hope that members of our community will be notified so we can contribute to it,” she said. Bello echoed the sentiment and said the VAB has been soliciting comments online from veterans in the city. “The public and advocates wouldn’t be able to give feedback if there wasn’t a hearing,” he said.</p> <p>A spokesperson for City Council Member Eric Ulrich, chair of the veterans affairs committee, insisted that the Council will hear from veterans themselves. “We look forward to working collaboratively with all the interested parties to ensure New York City provides the highest level of service to our veterans,” said Kevin Tschirhart, Ulrich’s director of communications. “Issues regarding the budget will be taken up at the executive budget hearings and will be finalized in coming months.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22166669023_a966c09374_z.jpg" alt="veterans outside city hall flags" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office</p> <hr /> <p>In December, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the City Council bill creating a separate, dedicated Veterans Affairs department which would take over responsibility from the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) in handling services for more than 200,000 military veterans living in New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">By law, the new department will be official on April 10 and the fiscal year 2017 budget being negotiated between the de Blasio administration and the City Council will outline its first agency allocation and spending plan. The city’s fiscal year begins July 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">As part of ongoing Council hearings on the mayor’s $82 billion preliminary budget, the new veterans affairs department was scheduled for a session on March 21. As is usually the case in such hearings, where agency heads and other administration officials testify before a Council committee, MOVA Commissioner Loree Sutton would have testified, Council members would have asked her questions, and advocates and members of the public would have aired their concerns.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, owing to the transition of veterans affairs from the Mayor’s Office to a full-fledged department, the hearing was deferred. “It doesn’t officially become a department in name till April 10,” said Joe Bello, a member of the city’s Veterans Advisory Board, “and it doesn’t become a real department budgetary-wise till July 1. So there was really no preliminary budget to discuss.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council veterans affairs committee’s preliminary budget hearing couldn’t really occur because the mayor and his budget office had not established a budget for the new veterans affairs department in the initial spending plan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, it will be taken up when the administration and City Council get down to brass tacks during executive budget negotiations. The Council will soon release its preliminary budget response, which will trigger closed-door discussions and lead to the mayor’s release of his revised spending plan later in April, followed by another round of hearings. The new veterans department is expected to be included in the executive budget and to have a budget hearing thereafter.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, the MOVA budget was $1.9 million, up from $600,000 the previous year, “the largest increase in its 29 year existence,” according to the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/vets/downloads/pdf/annual-reports/2015.pdf" target="_blank">VAB’s annual report</a>. &nbsp;Between January and July 2015, MOVA’s full-time staff increased from six to 20.</p> <p dir="ltr">The administration is also doubling down on its commitments through other initiatives. In <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/queens/news/2016/03/29/queens-gets-first-satellite-office-of-veteran-affairs.html" target="_blank">late March</a>, the first veterans affairs satellite office opened in Queens. Then, on March 28, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and MOVA <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/305-16/mayor-s-fund-advance-new-york-city-mayor-s-office-veterans-affairs-two" target="_blank">announced</a> partnerships with the private sector to end veteran homelessness, with an investment of $750,000. It’s not clear yet, however, what the total budget for fiscal 2017 will entail.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we've said, we are determining costs for the new agency and expect it to be reflected in the executive budget,” said Amy Spitalnick, spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget. “We look forward to working with the Council on this and more throughout the budget process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Spitalinick declined to provide details of what the executive budget may include.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bello from the VAB, a Navy veteran, is not worried about the preliminary budget hearing being scrapped. “As an advocate, I just want them to get it right,” he said. He expects significant increases in the budget and said the department could have as many as 35 staffers by the end of the year. “They gotta ramp up personnel. They gotta ramp up services,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">City services for military veterans include helping connect them to federal programs and often deal with housing, education, employment, and health care needs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bello spoke of the ThriveNYC mental health roadmap the city has released, which touches on veterans, and mentioned conversations with the de Blasio administration on veteran homelessness as well. He wasn’t sure if the latter would be directly tackled by the new department or remain under the purview of the Department of Homeless Services.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t know what I’m expecting,” said Kristen Rouse, an Army veteran and president and founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, an advocacy group. Rouse is a bit more skeptical than Bello, insisting on a line-by-line breakdown of the department’s budget. “They’ve never put out a policy paper saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing on veterans services and here’s how much we’re spending,’” she said. “The administration has quoted a lot of different numbers to us.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While she appreciates the administration’s initiatives, she hopes for an explanation of the budget to the veterans community and outreach for advice from veterans once a hearing is set. “I would hope that members of our community will be notified so we can contribute to it,” she said. Bello echoed the sentiment and said the VAB has been soliciting comments online from veterans in the city. “The public and advocates wouldn’t be able to give feedback if there wasn’t a hearing,” he said.</p> <p>A spokesperson for City Council Member Eric Ulrich, chair of the veterans affairs committee, insisted that the Council will hear from veterans themselves. “We look forward to working collaboratively with all the interested parties to ensure New York City provides the highest level of service to our veterans,” said Kevin Tschirhart, Ulrich’s director of communications. “Issues regarding the budget will be taken up at the executive budget hearings and will be finalized in coming months.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>