Press Release

THE NYC DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ SERVICES CELEBRATES FIRST FULL YEAR AS A CITY AGENCY DURING FLEET WEEK 2017

Since the agency’s establishment in April 2016, the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services built its team to full capacity and provided one-on-one assistance to over 3,000 New York City veterans and family members in the areas of housing, education, employment, benefits support, and mental health.

May 24, 2017

New York - The New York City Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) -- NYC’s first new agency in over 20 years and the nation’s first major city to stand up its own agency devoted to veterans and their families – celebrates its first full year as a City agency during Fleet Week 2017. Since beginning official operations in April 2016, DVS rose to the challenge of simultaneously building its team with enormously talented staff – reaching its budgeted capacity of 35 team members by May 2017 – as well as connecting thousands of New York City veterans and their families with a full range of services.

DVS is relentlessly passionate about improving the lives of all New York City veterans and their families, regardless of discharge status. DVS operates as a centralized hub able to put veterans and their families at the center of all we do. We coordinate a quality-vetted range of comprehensive services with a myriad of agencies at the City, state, and federal level, as well as through a host of vibrant and innovative public-private partnerships. 

Our mission is straightforward: to foster purpose-driven lives for NYC service members, veterans, and their families through:

  • Effective connections with the NYC community;
  • Targeted advocacy at the local, state, and national level;
  • Compassionate service, ensuring we make it easier to access services and benefits they’ve earned.

At DVS, we know that veterans are extraordinary civic assets whose enduring strength and demonstrated commitment to public service greatly contribute to making NYC the world’s greatest city. We are dedicated to building the strongest foundation possible to connect veterans and their families with high-quality services across a variety of needs, thereby strengthening our veterans’ capacity for and commitment to continued service within our City.

DVS has made great strides in building this foundation. During our first year, DVS has made historic strides in launching a robust suite of operations:

  • Building a world-class team of veterans, military family members, and civilian allies: DVS started out with 4 staff members who had so ably served its predecessor, the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA). DVS rapidly ramped up to its full capacity of 35 staff, actively recruiting talented veterans of service: military, community, and public service, creating three distinct “Lines of Action”: Housing and Support Services; Whole Health and Community Resilience: and City Employment, Education, Entrepreneurship, Engagement & Events. In addition to DVS’ functional areas, the agency filled out its operational team with a Chief Information Officer, Director of Public-Private Partnerships, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Press Secretary, and Director of Administration.
  • Fighting veteran homelessness with housing placement and after-care services: DVS’ Housing and Support Services team leads and supports initiatives to expand and improve housing and social service resources available to NYC veterans and their families, and provides assistance to veterans navigating existing resources. HSS’ top priority is working with homeless veterans, developing and sustaining a system that rapidly rehouses all those that become homeless, and working with partners to prevent homelessness in the first place. First year successes include: developing and launching new models of homeless housing and aftercare assistance that led directly to nearly 400 veterans placed in permanent housing with a 99% retention rate; being certified by the federal government for having ended chronic veteran homelessness; and working with NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) to add the GI Bill housing allowance as an income source landlords must accept.
  • Establishing a City-wide presence, with satellite sites in each of the five boroughs: DVS’s outreach specialists are situated directly in the communities they serve, staffing satellite offices in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. In this way, DVS has engaged participated in 319 community outreach events and provided one-on-one assistance to 2,300 veterans and family members between March 2016 and May 2017, helping to navigate and apply for benefits, such as the GI Bill, New York State tuition, veteran property tax exemptions, and local housing support. 
  • Creating opportunities to connect, heal, and thrive: DVS approaches mental health with the idea that healing starts with connection to others, extending the front lines of hope from the clinic to the community. As part of First Lady Chirlaine McCray’s pioneering ThriveNYC Mental Health Roadmap, DVS’s veteran-focused program – VetsThriveNYC – is committed to extending hope, healing, and wholeness to the veteran community in New York City. From December 2016 to April 2017, DVS’ Whole Health and Community Resilience team has shared mental health resources with nearly 3,000 veterans, family members and civilian allies, enabling access to a comprehensive range of coordinated integration of clinical and holistic services specifically tailored to the needs and strengths of veterans and their families.
  • Making it easier to access services by acquiring VetConnectNYC: Veterans consistently cite navigation as the number one challenge to accessing benefits and resources. To alleviate this burden, DVS is in the process of acquiring VetConnectNYC, a coordinated service delivery system that includes a website, coordination center, and a wide range of curated service providers including City, state, and federal agencies, as well as private and not-for-profit partners. The pilot, NYServes: New York City, served over 2,000 veterans and created a network of over 80 vetted service organizations. VetConnectNYC will be launched in Fall 2017.
  • Promoting the healing role of culture and the arts through the creative talents of NYC Public Artist in Residence Bryan Doerries: DVS, along with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), is hosting NYC’s newest Public Artist in Residence (PAIR), Bryan Doerries. Doerries’ Theater of War Productions (TOW), DVS, and DCLA will implement a two-year social impact project with and for veterans and their communities across NYC. The project uses theater and a variety of other media to help communities discuss and address pressing public health and social issues, such as combat-related psychological injury, suicide, women’s mental health, end of life care, prison reform, police/community relations, gun violence, natural and manmade disasters, domestic violence, substance abuse and addiction.
  • Ensuring final honors for NYC’s most vulnerable veterans: Even before DVS became an official agency, its predecessor the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs (MOVA) implemented a final honors program to ensure that veterans eligible for National Cemetery interment and without next of kin or financial means receive the dignified burials they earned for their service. Since 2008, MOVA and now DVS have laid over 400 veterans to rest at Calverton and Long Island national cemeteries with final honors, in partnership with dedicated funeral homes, veteran service organizations and NYC agencies. This initiative was recently profiled in the New York Times.

“To see this young agency grow and evolve so quickly within this last year is nothing short of tremendous,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Helping the heroes who have sacrificed immensely for this country is critically important and challenging work. What Commissioner Sutton and her team at DVS have accomplished in such a brief period of time is truly inspiring.”

“There is simply no greater privilege,” remarked Loree Sutton, MD, Brigadier General (ret.), Commissioner of the NYC Department of Veterans’ Services, “than to lead and build this incredible team over the course of DVS’ first year. Team DVS has already proven its mettle by providing compassionate, efficient, and personalized help to thousands of New York City’s veterans and their families – all while adjusting to the operations of a brand new City agency. It is an honor to serve New York City in my capacity as Commissioner, and there is no greater team with whom I could imagine serving shoulder to shoulder. And the best of all, we’ve just begun!”

“As Chair of the Veterans Committee, it has been a privilege to serve the brave men and women who have served this country. One of my greatest accomplishments was helping the City establish the Department of Veterans’ Services. I will never forget that fateful day my colleagues in the City Council unanimously passed my bill to launch this much-needed agency,” Councilman Eric Ulrich, Chairman of the Veterans Committee, said. “In its first year alone, DVS has helped thousands of veterans find housing, jobs and medical care when they return to service. Although it would be impossible to fully repay the debt we owe our veterans, I vow to continue being an advocate for our nation’s heroes. I would like to congratulate DVS on a successful first year providing such valuable services for the 225,000 men and women in uniform who call New York City home. ”

“Commissioner Loree Sutton and her staff’s visionary approach at the Department of Veterans’ Services has involved building the arts into the very core of their services to veterans,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “This is evident in their embrace of NYC’s Public Artist in Residence program, where they partner with artist Bryan Doerries and his Theater of War project to help reintegrate veterans and other communities impacted by violence into our social fabric through performance, conversation, and catharsis. DVS gets it: the arts are not an extra. They are vital to a healthy community.”

Todd Haskins, Chair of the Veterans Advisory Board, said, “As a New Yorker, I am very proud to see our city lead the way nationally in developing the most effective local veteran policies. The guiding principle behind all of these policies is to support veterans' continued service as citizens which means that ALL New Yorkers benefit from these programs. It has been a great honor for the VAB to give a voice to the veterans in New York City during the critical first year of the DVS's existence as an Agency and we look forward to its continued success.” 

Bryan Doerries, DVS’ Public Artist in Residence remarked, “2500 years ago, the ancient Greeks knew that the arts were the front lines of healing, as does the Department of Veterans’ Services today. It’s a distinct honor to be collaborating with DVS on this pioneering public health campaign, using live theater and powerful discussions to bring diverse communities together, break down stigmas, increase awareness, and reduce isolation.’

“During the past year we have worked tirelessly to build a world-class, diverse team of professionals all dedicated to serving the veteran community in New York City” said Jeffrey Roth, DVS’ Deputy Commissioner. “We have more building to do in our second year, including launching new innovations in whole health, advocacy, and comprehensive service navigation. I am eager and excited about all of the big things yet to come for NYC veterans and their families. Happy anniversary to this important agency, and let’s continue the work forward.” 

“It has been such an incredible experience to build this team,” said Nicole Branca, Assistant Commissioner for Housing & Support Services. “The Housing & Support Services team – our Veteran Peer Coordinators, Aftercare & constituent staff, and analysts – have worked tirelessly to advocate directly for homeless veterans, working with landlords, developers, and public and private sector partners to make sure they found safe, stable homes and – just as importantly – had the support necessary to retain them. I am so proud of the team, and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the years to come.”

Darlene Brown-Williams, PhD, Assistant Commissioner for Whole Health and Community Resilience at DVS remarked, “There is no better mission imaginable than working to improve the lives and health of this City’s veterans and their families. With the First Lady’s pioneering ThriveNYC Mental Health Road Map, we are creating a veteran and caregiver-focused program called VetsThriveNYC that caters to their specific needs and strengths. We’re preparing to launch a groundbreaking approach to whole health, moving the frontlines of healing from the clinic to the community. This timely and relevant model inspires all involved, including my team and colleagues who are tireless in bringing this model to life every day.”

Jamal Othman, Assistant Commissioner of City Employment, Education, Entrepreneurship, Engagement & Events (CE5) at DVS said, “I’m extremely proud of the work that the DVS team has performed during our first year. While creating a new department and operations and staffing it with talented personnel, DVS also established satellite locations in each borough. The sites have increased access to resources by making it easier for veterans to get the assistance they need without ever leaving their borough. With this City-wide presence, veterans and their families can get the personalized help they need, one-on-one and close to home. We look forward to continued growth and capacity going forward with respect to all facets of the CE5 Line of Action.”

“VetConnectNYC will give New York City veterans a single point of access to the benefits and services they’ve earned,” said Venkat Motupalli, Chief Information Officer for the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services. “It’s a user-friendly, intuitive approach to ensuring a safe, customized, and beneficial experience for veterans navigating available resources.”

Ines Adan, Director of Human Services at DVS, remarked on the final honors program that, “In fields of honor lay men, women and their dependents who sacrificed for love of country. Here is where we honor Americans of all races, religion, economic status, faith, sexual orientation who served to protect the American ideal. Here in these fields of honor we custodians of our heroes do our part to right the unfortunate slights of their time.”

For more information on the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services, please visit our website at www.nyc.gov/vets, visit us at 1 Centre Street, Suite 2208, New York, NY, call 212-416-5250, or follow us on social media @nycveterans.