By Madina Toure
Queens elected officials and veterans groups praised a new veteran designation on the municipal ID card announced by the city last week as a good first step in addressing problems that veterans face.
Veterans applying for the IDNYC card will be asked to show proof of veteran status and must be city residents. The designation is free of charge.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who introduced a bill in March 2014 calling for a veteran ID card, said the designation is a “huge step” forward, but that more needs to be done.
”There’s more to be done, but now veterans have the identification they were asking for because it was from them that we got the idea,” Vallone said.
Paul Narson, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Queens chapter, said the designation would give veterans more access to the services and benefits that are available to them.
“There are a lot of places where veterans get a discount—restaurants, stores and such,” Narson said. “If a veteran has a picture ID card that states he is a veteran, it would help a veteran there.”
But he repeated calls for a veterans resource center, noting that $500,000 had been allocated for each borough but to no avail.
“We feel that if there was one place in each borough, we would have some place that we could go with our problems to find out what we’re entitled to, how to get certain benefits, how to get medical help, instead of having to deal with the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs,” he said. “The Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs doesn’t have a big budget and the majority of the money goes to the employees.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz commended the new designation.
“Incorporating this new veteran designation into the IDNYC program offers the men and women who have served in our nation’s military expanded benefits and greater access to vital services,” Katz said.
Veterans will also receive benefits such as free membership at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and discounts through the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Queens VETS Program.
“The Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Veterans’ ID Program has been very popular amongst the veterans and business owners in Queens, and with the new municipal ID program’s veteran designation, we believe its popularity will grow,” Tom Grech, the chamber’s executive director, said.
Three new pop-up enrollment centers opened at Services for the UnderServed in Queens, Mission Continues in Manhattan and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx.
The city will also launch temporary enrollment centers targeting veterans in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour