New Vets’ Commish Should Focus on Jobs, Healthcare: Area Advocates

New Vets’ Commish Should Focus on Jobs, Healthcare: Area Advocates

Loree Sutton (c.) address the media as Mayor Bill de Blasio announces her new role as Veterans' Affairs commissioner. Photo courtesy Mayor's office

Loree Sutton (c.) address the media as Mayor Bill de Blasio announces her new role as Veterans’ Affairs commissioner.
Photo courtesy Mayor’s office

After Mayor de Blasio last week tapped Loree Sutton, MD, to head the city’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, area officials and advocates said the retired Army brigadier general should bolster efforts to help former service members with access to jobs and healthcare.

Sutton, a psychiatrist and leading national mental health advocate, was lauded for more than 25 years of military and civilian service and her expertise in the treatment of brain injuries.

“Loree’s revolutionary mental health work has helped countless Army veterans through the struggles so many face when they return from war, and our administration is honored to have Loree leading the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs,” de Blasio said.

“General Sutton is uniquely qualified to address the many needs and challenges facing local veterans and their families. New Yorkers will be well served with her at City Hall,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), chairman of the Veterans Committee.

Sutton, who was honored with the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit during her career in the armed forces, takes the reins from Terrance Holliday, a retired Air Force colonel who earned a reputation from city veterans and elected officials as a tireless champion of veterans’ causes.

“Commissioner Sutton has a large task ahead of her, a daunting task,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a member of the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee. “We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to helping vets governmentally on the city, state and federal levels.”

While Addabbo acknowledged, “it all starts with funding,” educating veterans, their families, healthcare providers and prospective employers on issues and services is just as important.

“There are some good programs out there, but they’re only as good as the people who know about them,” Addabbo said, adding that business owners need to be made more aware of the tax credits available for establishments that hire veterans and the unique skill sets that those who served their country possess.

Patrick Connolly, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #2565 in Howard Beach, echoed Addabbo’s sentiment while also emphasizing the importance of providing crucial mental health care to service members returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Posttraumatic Stress Disorder appears to be the biggest issue overall,” said Connolly, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran. “The rate of suicide for these kids coming home is incredible.”

Sutton starts Sept. 2.

By Michael Cusenza


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