On the evening of November 30th, I joined approximately fifty other veterans, civilian activists, and interested New York City citizens representing a variety of organizations, opinions, and eras in attending The New York City Veterans Advisory Board (NYC VAB) quarterly meeting held downtown in the David Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building.
Comprised of 11 un-paid veteran members representing all five NYC boroughs, the NYC VAB is tasked with providing advice and guidance to the Commissioner of the recently created NYC Department of Veteran Services (NYC DVS).
Formerly the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA), IAVA played a lead role in the elevation of this office – a relatively small organization that we argued was not capable of serving the needs of the city’s 230,000 veterans – to a department level organization with adequate staff to support the city’s veteran community and a stable and adequate budget to fund those activities.
As part of their duties, the VAB hosts regular meetings, open to the public, to ensure that lines of communication between city residents and the DVS are maintained and that their interests, opinions, and concerns are heard. Last week, just a few of the many items discussed during the two and a half hour meeting included:
• A suggestion for a combined meeting of the VAB and local MyVA Community Veterans Engagement Board in order to maximize each organization’s outreach effort and to find areas of potential collaboration
• A discussion on recent New York Times articles concerning mass graves for indigent city residents and whether or not veterans are buried there (the VAB is going to research further)
• Announcements by the New York Fire Department and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that each is hiring and that there are veteran preferences within the process
• A discussion about the availability of free legal services through the Army Reserve Legal Assistance Department for reservists and retirees
As is evident from the above small selection of the range of topics that were discussed in one meeting, there is much on the minds of the members of New York City’s veteran community. That single VAB meeting raised my awareness to the incredibly wide variety of veteran focused work being done every day around the city in areas that I don’t necessarily see.
I look forward to attending future meetings, learning more, contributing, and reporting back on the events and outcomes of not only VAB meetings but also all the veterans issues being discussed and worked on by the New York City government. In the meantime, track the VAB twitter feed here, see links to VAB meeting minutes here, and watch video of meetings here.