By Joseph Leo
“No Veteran is ever turned away,” said Loree Sutton, chair of New York City’s Department of Veteran Services (DVS,) during a budget hearing Thursday at City Hall. The budget in question totaled $5.2 million.
The hearing was conducted by the City Council’s Committee on Veterans.
Sutton and DVS are trying to surge toward in their efforts to better life for military veterans living in New York City. DVS was formed in 2016 and now gives services to more than 200,000 veterans.
“Veterans are our north star,” Sutton said.
During the hearing, some of the topics dealt with were need for housing, job vacancies at DVS, the needs of LGBTQ vets, and suicide as a big concern among veterans. According to Sutton, there has been a 90 percent increase in the number of veterans getting accepted into NYCHA, housing since DVS was started in 2016.
DVS does not know how many homeless veterans currently are on the streets of New York City. But officials said they are “continuing . . . efforts to get an accurate number.”
LGBTQ veterans have been a hot topic recently. Some LGBTQ veterans around the country have been discharged and haven’t been able to get the resources they need when coming back from service and transitioning back into civilian life. Sutton assured the committee that regardless of sexual orientation or gender, DVS will work with veterans to give them the help they need.
Testimony at the hearing showed that DVS spent on $3.6 million of the $4.4 million it has been allotted in the 2018 budget. Department Commissioner Jeff Roth said this was because there was a shortage of employees. Out of the 47 full-time positions, only 36 are filled. DVS told the committee they are going through interviews to try to fill those positions and get the spending back to where it should be.
Regarding suicide, DVS indicated it was not sure how many veterans commit suicide on a yearly basis but said they are “actively working” on getting that number as well as creating a plan to combat veteran suicide.
There will be another hearing where the budget will be officially announced. That hearing has no date currently.