Elected officials joined veterans and service members at City Hall on Tuesday to celebrate the passage of landmark legislation creating the city Department of Veterans’ Services.
According to City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), chairman of the Veterans Committee, DVS will be a one-stop shop for veterans in the city and connect military families with benefits and programs designed to help vets transition back to civilian life. The department will work with federal, state, and local agencies, and to inform and assist members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families in matters such as educational training and retraining services and facilities; health, medical, and rehabilitation services and facilities; provisions of federal, state, and local laws and regulations giving special rights and privileges to members of the Armed Forces, vets, and their families; employment and re-employment services.
“Veterans are such an important part of the fabric of our great city. That is why I am so proud to join my colleagues in passing this landmark piece of legislation,” Ulrich said. “By elevating the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs to the department level, the [City] Council is once again leading the way in honoring the military service and selfless sacrifice of our large and diverse veterans’ community. The new Department of Veterans’ Services will improve our ability to help and empower veterans throughout the five boroughs. I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Paul Vallone, the Public Advocate and all my colleagues in government who supported this bill and championed its passage. Our city is also grateful for the dedication shown by the many veterans’ advocacy groups who worked tirelessly on behalf of this cause. As the brother of a Marine, I am personally honored to do my part to help make a difference in the lives of the men and women who have served our country.”
The Big Apple is now the largest municipality in the country to establish an agency solely dedicated to those who have served in the military. In the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, the City Council allocated $940,000 for Veterans Services Initiatives to address critical needs of the city’s 225,000 veterans, including homeless prevention, job placement and transition services, legal services, mental health services, and community development.
“This is a tremendous victory for the veterans movement,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
By Michael V. Cusenza