New York City will establish a government agency dedicated entirely to veterans issues through an agreement arranged between the mayor and City Council.
Councilman Eric Ulrich and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito jointly announced on Wednesday that the City Council would soon vote on and pass a bill creating the city Department of Veterans Services, which will focus specifically on the needs of New Yorkers who served in the armed forces. Ulrich, who chairs the Council Committee on Veterans, sponsored the legislation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Loree Sutton, the city’s Veterans Affairs commissioner, threw their support to the legislation. The mayor oversees an Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA), but the new department will be able to expand the city’s ability to serve local veterans, according to Ulrich and Mark-Viverito.
“This agency will be a one-stop shop for the city’s large and diverse veterans community,” Ulrich and Mark-Viverito said in their joint statement released Wednesday night. “We believe that by elevating MOVA to the department level, the city will be in a better position to deliver more resources and services to veterans throughout the five boroughs.”
“We share the Council’s goal of helping our veterans and their families access the services and support they need and deserve in their return to civilian life,” de Blasio and Sutton added in their own joint statement. “This is why we pledged to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year, committed to expanding job opportunities for our veteran community and increased funding for veteran services this year.”
More than 225,000 veterans who served the nation from World War II to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan reside in New York City. Many of them, Ulrich and Mark-Viverito noted, face a variety of social and economic challenges, from rising homelessness to securing well-paying jobs or even simply transitioning back to civilian life after serving in combat.
“Far too many of them feel helpless or ignored,” they said. “We fundamentally believe we have a moral obligation to help those New Yorkers. This agency is going to listen to the veterans community and be more responsive to their needs, and we’re proud to have their backs.”
The bill creating the Department of Veterans Services, Intro. No. 314-2014, is currently in the Council’s Committee on Veterans, which Ulrich chairs. It could be voted on as soon as the City Council’s next stated meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10 — the day before Veterans Day is observed nationwide.
Forty-five of the Council’s 51 members have co-sponsored the legislation, including Queens Council members Costa Constantinides, Elizabeth Crowley, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Peter Koo, Karen Koslowitz, Rory Lancman, I. Daneek Miller, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Paul Vallone, Jimmy Van Bramer and Ruben Wills.