With Veterans Day here, Community Board 5 (CB 5) has agreed to create a subcommittee of its Health and Human Services Committee to deal with veterans affairs on their board.
Michael O’Kane, CB 5 member and president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Queens Chapter 32, proposed a brand new Veterans Affairs Committee during CB 5’s monthly meeting at Christ the King High School in Middle Village on Nov. 9.
“These guys are underserved, they’re uninformed,” O’Kane said of the veterans in Queens. “What we’re trying to do is, we’re trying to help them navigate through the VA [Veterans Affairs] … these guys that are coming home now, don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. It’s important for them to put in claim in as soon as they can with the VA, and doing so can be a daunting task.”
O’Kane laid out a proposal for this new committee which would:
- Provide veterans with a resource for identifying benefits information and how to access VA benefits;
- Assist veterans in navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs; and
- Refer veterans to a qualified Veterans Services Officer within the CB 5 area;
“What I hope to do with this committee is establish a referral service to probably some of the best veterans service officers in New York State, we have a network of them that we deal with, they are all good,” O’Kane told the board. “And then just help the guys out. Welcome them home. It wasn’t there when I came home. Nobody told me what I was entitled to do, how I was I was entitled, or the benefits I was entitled to.”
O’Kane would also like to see the committee made up of no less than five members, preferably veterans themselves, and they would meet at the CB 5 office on Myrtle Avenue once every other month.
CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri, along with members of the board’s Executive Committee — who were all present at the meeting — agreed to create the subcommittee and allow them to operate once they are set up.