De Blasio signs bills improving transparency of veterans’ services

By Madina Toure

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law bills requiring city agencies to keep track of veterans using their services and reforms to the Veterans’ Advisory Board.

The first law, introduced by City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), requires city agencies to report specific services provided to veterans. It was unanimously passed by the City Council Feb. 26.

Under the second law, the number of members on the Veterans’ Advisory Board increased from nine to 11 members, six of whom would be appointed by de Blasio and five by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan).

Board members would also be required to create an email exclusively for the purpose of the board.

The last law calls on the board to hold five mandatory meetings, up from four. The Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs is also now expected to maintain and regularly update contact information for veterans’ organizations in the city.

“These three bills will strengthen the city’s ability to support veterans and connect them to the services they need and deserve,” de Blasio said.

Vallone called the new laws a good first step to providing much-needed attention to the 200,000 veterans currently living in the city.

“For the first time, the city has to account for which veterans are receiving services from the city,” he said.

Vallone said the announcement marked the first time he has had a bill passed during his tenure as a Council member and the first bill passed in his district in 10 years.

His bill called on the Mayor’s Office of Operations to report data on veterans from agencies such as the city Department of Housing and Development, the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the city Department of Consumer Affairs to the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans’ Advisory Board and the City Council.

Reforms to the Veterans’ Advisory Board were needed due to a lack of turnover of board members, Vallone said, with a greater need of a balance between veterans of older wars and those of more recent wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s great to have veterans from all the past wars that we’ve had, but the current veterans want to see some representation,” he said.

Veterans’ advocates were also not aware of the board’s activities or its members, he added.

The next step, he said, is for MOVA to become a city agency so it can receive more funding and powers. It is controlled by the mayor, making it hard for the City Council to effect veteran policy, he said.

“If we’re going to help our veterans, it’s time for them to have their own city agency,” he said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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