De Blasio Under Fire for Some Vets Board Picks

De Blasio Under Fire for Some Vets Board Picks

Photo: John Rowan (l.), of Middle Village, has been reappointed to the Veterans Advisory Board. File Photo.

Mayor Bill de Blasio this week is still absorbing sharp criticism over some of his appointments to the Veterans Advisory Board.

Established in 1987, the VAB and advises the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs on issues and acts as a liaison between the city and the local veterans’ community. The board is comprised of nine members—five appointed by the mayor and four by the City Council speaker.

Last Thursday, de Blasio appointed six new members to serve on the board: Charles Greinsky, Todd Haskins, Samuel Innocent, Mariel Juarez, Jules Martin, and Anthony Odierno. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appointed Charles Hernández, and reappointed current Board Members John Rowan and Patrick Devine.

But in a scathing release that same Thursday, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff characterized the “long-overdue” appointments as a “visible representation of the tone deafness” of the de Blasio administration on veteran issues.

“Most glaring is the lack of Veteran Service Organizations and veteran service providers represented on the list,” Rieckhoff said. “It’s hard to believe this administration could be further disconnected from the veterans’ community, but these appointments achieve exactly that.

“The mayor made big promises about veterans’ services in New York City,” he continued, “but, so far, has not delivered despite being provided ample time and opportunity. For example, it took him nearly nine months to appoint a commissioner of Veterans Affairs. Even now, after Commissioner Dr. Loree Sutton’s nearly eight months on the job, we still don’t have a public comprehensive plan for the direction of Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs or veteran services in the city.”

De Blasio has defended his picks.

“The proposal was generated by former brigadier general Loree Sutton, who is the head of our Office of Veterans’ Affairs, she has an extraordinary record of serving veterans’ needs, and my charge to her was put together a group that would both advise and give different perspectives on the things we need to do to help veterans, but also help us get more resources for more veterans, and the group she has put together I think will do just that,” de Blasio said last Thursday afternoon in a Capital New York report .

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, said that he hopes the backlash will “serve as a wake up call” for the de Blasio administration.

“From the mayor’s refusal to allocate more money for supportive services to his opposition to the recent veterans pension bill in Albany, it should come as no surprise why local veterans are frustrated with his recent appointments to the Veterans Advisory Board.”

By Michael V. Cusenza michael@theforumnewsgroup.com

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