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A Message from NYC Veterans Advocate to Incoming and Outgoing VAB Members

It’s my understanding that several outgoing members may be meeting with the new board prior to the open meeting. Therefore, I wanted to say a few things in the hopes of impressing upon the board what it should/could be doing.

Contrary to the concern of the former chair of the Veterans Advisory Board, Vince McGowan, that the attention this issue has recently gotten will affect the meeting, I disagree.  It could be anything from a circus to a voyeurs delight but the real anger lies with Mayor de Blasio. The selections of the new board members (primarily from the Mayor) set in motion an anger with his perplexing and disappointing 16-month record on veteran issues.

I do not believe veterans will come to the meeting rioting or railing against the board members.  It is too late for that and for better or worse they’re here for the next three years.

However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot impress upon them the responsibilities that the job requires.  Part of the legislation recently passed stated: “The Veterans Advisory Board ADVISES the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) and serves as a liaison between the veterans’ community and city government.”

Those of you who remember, under the Bloomberg administration, it was Anthony Crowell and Joey Koch who stymied the board.  This time around we know Commissioner Sutton met with, selected and submitted the names of the Mayor’s board members. Many believe they were selected because they are manageable.

Regardless, I’m asking that you urge the new board members to be INDEPENDENT of MOVA and to carry out its mandate, which includes when appropriate, policy and legislative recommendations to MOVA and the City Council.  Tell them the appointment to the board CANNOT be nothing more that resume filler.  Tell them to get out into the community and the borough’s they represent to find out what the issues are. Have them visit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Black Veterans For Social Justice, United War Veterans Council, etc. Even ask them to attend a veteran service organization meeting with the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc.

Just because they were not the appointments the community was looking for doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the opportunity to do a good job – but they’re going to have to work at it.

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