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/veterans-alliance 2017-10-21T19:34:15+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com 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>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City's Veterans Community Meets to Assess Policy, Build Cohesion 2015-07-29T18:56:23+00:00 2015-07-29T18:56:23+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5830:citys-veterans-community-meets-to-assess-policy-build-cohesion Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/veterans_policy_event_pic.jpg" alt="veterans policy event pic" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">From Tuesday's event (<a href="https://www.facebook.com/NYCVeteransAlliance" target="_blank">photo</a>: NYC Veterans Alliance via Facebook)</span></p> <hr /> <p>A steady stream of hands shot in the air as the speaker asked audience members to indicate if they had served their country, beginning with Vietnam and ending post-9/11.</p> <p>At a forum on New York City Veterans Policy Tuesday night, hosted by the New York City Veterans Alliance, veterans and veteran advocates of diverse ages and backgrounds gathered to discuss the issues facing their community, including homelessness, funding for employment, healthcare and other services, and even how to define the term 'veteran.' The event occurred amid <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5712-with-focus-on-mental-health-push-for-new-city-veterans-agency-continues" target="_blank">ongoing debate</a> over how well city government is attending to veterans' needs and organizing its resources to best provide support to the hundreds of thousands of veterans living in the city.</p> <p>"I would say different era veterans are having much different experiences in NYC. A lot of the student vets, there's a lot more support for them with the new GI bill, they're doing a lot better overall. And they're a lot more active in honing the community and helping with various student organizations and veterans associations at schools," said Vadim Panasyuk, who served in Iraq and works at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). "But other era veterans that are struggling— from more forgotten conflicts, Korea, Vietnam— those vets are still struggling, and find themselves in legal whirlpool of all the different VSOs [veteran support organizations] and dealing with misinformation from one service provider to another and it becomes very discouraging to seek out help."</p> <p>Iraq War veteran Tireak Tulloch, a spokesman for IAVA, agreed. "If you're a veteran from a different era, [service providers] don't know what to do with you," Tulloch said.</p> <p>Vietnam veteran Lee Covino, who recently served as Vice-Chairman of the City's Veterans Advisory Board, described witnessing an "identity crisis."</p> <p>"You have people who are separated by campaigns...you have a huge population out there and one of the things that irks me is when a vet tells me, 'I'm not a vet,'" Covino said. "That's nonsense. You're an era and you need to organize that way."</p> <p>The efficacy and availability of resources for veterans was a key part of Tuesday night's discussion, with NYC Veterans Alliance interim director Kristen Rouse noting in her opening remarks that the city committed to a "notable" <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5794-a-budget-victory-for-nyc-military-veterans-de-blasio-bello" target="_blank">increase in funding</a> for veterans in the fiscal year 2016 budget.</p> <p>"I think there's been tremendous progress and the city has come together, but...There's a real sense to me of a lack of cohesion of all these different efforts," said Coco Culhane, the founding director of the Veteran Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center. "And there's not a whole lot of infrastructure they can turn to at the city level and especially for veterans who are not eligible for these federal VA dollars. The city is their safety net and we need to be there for them so I think we have a long way to go, even with just acknowledging veterans."</p> <p>There is conversation at the city level over whether the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs, or MOVA, should <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5712-with-focus-on-mental-health-push-for-new-city-veterans-agency-continues" target="_blank">become its own city agency</a>, removed from within the mayor's office, but still under the mayor's purview. Creating a separate Department of Veterans Affairs, as called for by a City Council bill that has had one public hearing but does not have Mayor Bill de Blasio's support, would likely give work to support veterans more clarity, resources, and oversight.</p> <p>"You need people who know what they're doing to serve this population and having experts but also having oversight. If we're going to address all of the issues that are included in that report," Rouse told Gotham Gazette referring to <a href="https://nycveteransalliance.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/report_nycveteransalliance.pdf" target="_blank">the report</a> NYC Veterans Alliance recently released, "if we want to properly address this stuff, there has to be an accountable agency that has programmatic oversight of what these different city agencies are doing." The report, which surveyed almost 500 veterans in the New York metropolitan area, identified veterans' key concerns, including improving access to the VA suicide hotline and increasing oversight of veteran service organizations that receive city funding.</p> <p>Comedian and television host John Oliver delivered opening remarks describing his experience being married to a veteran. "It's hard being married to a veteran because you can't complain about your day," Oliver quipped. "'Oh, you had a bad day writing jokes? Shut up!'"</p> <p>But Oliver also took a more serious turn, underlining the importance of doing more than just saying "thank you" to military veterans.</p> <p>"It's too easy to say 'thank you,' but you're not actually doing anything. There can be a real seduction in people having lovely commercials on TV, introducing veterans at football games, but it's not doing anything to fix infrastructure," Oliver said.</p> <p>Moderator Phoebe Gavin, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, commented that "the average American is just not very connected to the [military] campaigns that have occurred," adding that many might not have a veteran in family. "There's just not as much connection to campaigns as there used to be...we've been at the mall all this time," Gavin said of most Americans going about their business, like shopping, while a small group serves in the military or has a family member doing so.</p> <p>In an interview with Gotham Gazette prior to the forum, Oliver highlighted the work organizations Team Rubicon and Mission Continues do to assist veterans' transition back to civilian life. Team Rubicon unites military veterans with first responders to deploy emergency response teams, giving veterans the opportunity to put the skills they learned in the armed forces to use responding to natural disasters.</p> <p>"They are a good example of providing practical assistance," Oliver said. "And most veterans don't want help, they're not a group that will complain, they don't want to be treated like a charity case. They want to be given opportunities."</p> <p>***<br />by Catie Edmondson, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/CatieEdmondson" target="_blank">@CatieEdmondson</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/veterans_policy_event_pic.jpg" alt="veterans policy event pic" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">From Tuesday's event (<a href="https://www.facebook.com/NYCVeteransAlliance" target="_blank">photo</a>: NYC Veterans Alliance via Facebook)</span></p> <hr /> <p>A steady stream of hands shot in the air as the speaker asked audience members to indicate if they had served their country, beginning with Vietnam and ending post-9/11.</p> <p>At a forum on New York City Veterans Policy Tuesday night, hosted by the New York City Veterans Alliance, veterans and veteran advocates of diverse ages and backgrounds gathered to discuss the issues facing their community, including homelessness, funding for employment, healthcare and other services, and even how to define the term 'veteran.' The event occurred amid <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5712-with-focus-on-mental-health-push-for-new-city-veterans-agency-continues" target="_blank">ongoing debate</a> over how well city government is attending to veterans' needs and organizing its resources to best provide support to the hundreds of thousands of veterans living in the city.</p> <p>"I would say different era veterans are having much different experiences in NYC. A lot of the student vets, there's a lot more support for them with the new GI bill, they're doing a lot better overall. And they're a lot more active in honing the community and helping with various student organizations and veterans associations at schools," said Vadim Panasyuk, who served in Iraq and works at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). "But other era veterans that are struggling— from more forgotten conflicts, Korea, Vietnam— those vets are still struggling, and find themselves in legal whirlpool of all the different VSOs [veteran support organizations] and dealing with misinformation from one service provider to another and it becomes very discouraging to seek out help."</p> <p>Iraq War veteran Tireak Tulloch, a spokesman for IAVA, agreed. "If you're a veteran from a different era, [service providers] don't know what to do with you," Tulloch said.</p> <p>Vietnam veteran Lee Covino, who recently served as Vice-Chairman of the City's Veterans Advisory Board, described witnessing an "identity crisis."</p> <p>"You have people who are separated by campaigns...you have a huge population out there and one of the things that irks me is when a vet tells me, 'I'm not a vet,'" Covino said. "That's nonsense. You're an era and you need to organize that way."</p> <p>The efficacy and availability of resources for veterans was a key part of Tuesday night's discussion, with NYC Veterans Alliance interim director Kristen Rouse noting in her opening remarks that the city committed to a "notable" <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/5794-a-budget-victory-for-nyc-military-veterans-de-blasio-bello" target="_blank">increase in funding</a> for veterans in the fiscal year 2016 budget.</p> <p>"I think there's been tremendous progress and the city has come together, but...There's a real sense to me of a lack of cohesion of all these different efforts," said Coco Culhane, the founding director of the Veteran Advocacy Project at the Urban Justice Center. "And there's not a whole lot of infrastructure they can turn to at the city level and especially for veterans who are not eligible for these federal VA dollars. The city is their safety net and we need to be there for them so I think we have a long way to go, even with just acknowledging veterans."</p> <p>There is conversation at the city level over whether the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs, or MOVA, should <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5712-with-focus-on-mental-health-push-for-new-city-veterans-agency-continues" target="_blank">become its own city agency</a>, removed from within the mayor's office, but still under the mayor's purview. Creating a separate Department of Veterans Affairs, as called for by a City Council bill that has had one public hearing but does not have Mayor Bill de Blasio's support, would likely give work to support veterans more clarity, resources, and oversight.</p> <p>"You need people who know what they're doing to serve this population and having experts but also having oversight. If we're going to address all of the issues that are included in that report," Rouse told Gotham Gazette referring to <a href="https://nycveteransalliance.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/report_nycveteransalliance.pdf" target="_blank">the report</a> NYC Veterans Alliance recently released, "if we want to properly address this stuff, there has to be an accountable agency that has programmatic oversight of what these different city agencies are doing." The report, which surveyed almost 500 veterans in the New York metropolitan area, identified veterans' key concerns, including improving access to the VA suicide hotline and increasing oversight of veteran service organizations that receive city funding.</p> <p>Comedian and television host John Oliver delivered opening remarks describing his experience being married to a veteran. "It's hard being married to a veteran because you can't complain about your day," Oliver quipped. "'Oh, you had a bad day writing jokes? Shut up!'"</p> <p>But Oliver also took a more serious turn, underlining the importance of doing more than just saying "thank you" to military veterans.</p> <p>"It's too easy to say 'thank you,' but you're not actually doing anything. There can be a real seduction in people having lovely commercials on TV, introducing veterans at football games, but it's not doing anything to fix infrastructure," Oliver said.</p> <p>Moderator Phoebe Gavin, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, commented that "the average American is just not very connected to the [military] campaigns that have occurred," adding that many might not have a veteran in family. "There's just not as much connection to campaigns as there used to be...we've been at the mall all this time," Gavin said of most Americans going about their business, like shopping, while a small group serves in the military or has a family member doing so.</p> <p>In an interview with Gotham Gazette prior to the forum, Oliver highlighted the work organizations Team Rubicon and Mission Continues do to assist veterans' transition back to civilian life. Team Rubicon unites military veterans with first responders to deploy emergency response teams, giving veterans the opportunity to put the skills they learned in the armed forces to use responding to natural disasters.</p> <p>"They are a good example of providing practical assistance," Oliver said. "And most veterans don't want help, they're not a group that will complain, they don't want to be treated like a charity case. They want to be given opportunities."</p> <p>***<br />by Catie Edmondson, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/CatieEdmondson" target="_blank">@CatieEdmondson</a></p>