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Mayor de Blasio Announces Veterans Services' Commissioner Loree Sutton Stepping Down, Appointment of Lt. Col. James Hendon as Successor

October 3, 2019

DVS releases three-year report documenting the agency’s growth and notable achievements under Commissioner Sutton’s leadership

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Loree Sutton, MD, Brigadier General (ret.), will step down as Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) during a press conference today at the Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum. 

Sutton will be succeeded by James Hendon, former Director of the NYU Veterans Lab and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who serves as the New York City Lead for the 75th Innovation Command. Commissioner Sutton will depart at the end of October, followed immediately by Hendon’s appointment on November 1.

“Loree’s leadership in helping to create the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services – the first agency of its kind in the nation – sent a clear message of support to our veterans,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “New York City is now fully prepared to aid any service member, veteran, or family member in need thanks to her efforts and James is the perfect person to take over the reins. As director of the Veterans Future Lab, he's shown he knows how to help veterans thrive in our city, and we're confident he can do the same for all 210,000 veterans who call New York City home.”

Without the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services, thousands of New York City veterans would simply not have had a place to turn in their time of greatest need,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phil Thompson. “Sutton built an agency with a team of dedicated, service-minded officials who brought DVS’s mission to life each and every day: targeted advocacy for veterans and their families; community engagement in all five boroughs; and compassionate service, easing access to benefits NYC veterans have earned. The lives of New York City’s service members, veterans, and family members are better thanks to the fierce commitment and tireless dedication of Loree Sutton.”

“From building a team of dedicated public servants and establishing our organizational principles and procedures, to marshalling the collective will of community partners and finding innovative solutions for our City’s most vexing problems, the last few years have been a journey grounded in an unyielding commitment to ensuring New York City’s veterans and their families are supported and empowered,” said Commissioner Loree Sutton, MD, Brigadier General (ret.) “Service to others truly is our North Star. To be able to foster better lives for New York City veterans and their families, who have dedicated their own lives to service -- there is simply no greater privilege.”

“There is a saying in the military that we don’t promote individuals solely based on performance, but on potential. I am grateful that Mayor de Blasio and the City of New York see potential in me as a servant and steward of this awesome organization. I’m excited to build on the work of Commissioner Sutton and her unsung, world class team so that we can continue to foster purpose driven lives for New York City service members, Veterans, and their families," said incoming DVS Commissioner James Hendon, Lieutenant Colonel.

As founding Commissioner for DVS, Sutton oversaw the creation of the city’s first new agency in over twenty years, and the nation’s first municipal-level agency devoted to serving service members, veterans, and their families. 

Under her leadership, DVS oversaw:

  • All-time low in street homelessness: a 97% decrease in veteran street homelessness.
  • Connecting with student veterans: the creation of the NYC University and college coalition, “Veterans on Campus,” which mobilized to prevent imminent eviction for at-risk student veterans. 
  • Veterans as protected class: the establishment of veterans as a protected class in New York City’s human rights law. 
  • One-on-one help for over 25,000 veterans: the creation of a team of Outreach Coordinators who provided one-on-one engagement with almost 25,000 service members, veterans, and family members – many of whom do not have access to services through the VA -- at Veteran Resource Centers in all five boroughs as well as at over 500 community events.

Sutton’s focus on recognizing the struggles of veterans but leading with their strengths is manifest in DVS’s wide range of programs and initiatives, all designed to foster purpose-driven lives for veterans and their families so they can continue to serve on behalf of others: now, in their neighborhoods, their communities, and their city.

Prior to joining DVS, Sutton served in the United States Army for nearly 30 years, reaching the rank of Brigadier General, the highest-ranked psychiatrist at that time and one of only 15 women generals out of the 1.3 million soldiers serving in the Army. She served in the Department of Defense as the Founding Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) from 2007 to 2010. Before assuming DCoE directorship, Sutton commanded the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, the nation’s largest power projection military installation, with over 100,000 service and family members. Selected to serve as the Command Surgeon for the Multinational Force in Iraq, Sutton’s “down-range” assignment was diverted to Washington DC upon nomination for promotion to Brigadier General in May 2007. Prior deployment experience includes serving in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt in support of the first Gulf War and the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission. Her military awards and recognition include Bronze Star Medal; Presidential Service Badge (White House Fellow); and Legion of Merit.

Incoming Commissioner James Hendon

James Hendon most recently served as the Director of the NYU Veterans Future Lab, a small business incubator for practicing and aspiring entrepreneurs who are U.S. Military Veterans or Veterans' Spouses. A veteran entrepreneur himself, Hendon is also the CEO of the Energy Economic Development Corporation, an organization that helps communities and small businesses take advantage of energy-related advancements. Prior to that, Hendon served as the COO for BlocPower, a Department of Energy-sponsored company that helps nonprofits, small businesses, and faith centers perform energy efficiency retrofits.  He previously worked as an Associate in the Real Estate Investment Banking Group at Deutsche Bank.

Before entering the civilian workforce, Hendon spent seven years in the U.S. Army as an active duty Infantry Officer, where he deployed as a Mortar Platoon Leader and Battalion Public Affairs Officer to Iraq (2005), worked as an Admissions Officer for West Point (2006-2007), and served as the Senior Advisor to the Afghan Border Police in Afghanistan (2007-2009).

Hendon is a 2002 graduate of West Point, a 2012 graduate of Harvard Kennedy School and Columbia Business School, and a 2015 graduate of the Earth Institute's Program in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability. Hendon continues to serve in the military as Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, where he acts as the New York City Lead for the 75th Innovation Command.

“Loree Sutton, MD, Brigadier General (Ret.), and her work as the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services, has been instrumental in providing veterans in New York City the ability to have their issues addressed,” said State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., a member of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee. “Her leadership created much needed change in the way our city helps veterans and her hard work and dedication has laid the groundwork for the creation of an agency that touches dedicated military lives. We owe Commissioner Sutton a debt of gratitude for her service to our city and country.”

“I want to commend Commissioner Loree Sutton, M.D. for her over 30 years of service to our country and for her leadership of the Department of Veterans’ Services. As the former Chair of the Committee on Veterans, I am well aware of the enormous challenges that our veterans face upon their return to civilian life. They have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom and liberty, and as a society, we are forever indebted to them for their bravery. Under Commissioner Sutton’s leadership, the Department of Veterans Services greatly expanded the city’s ability to provide resources for veterans, and for her continued dedication to our city, we are most appreciative. It is my hope that by working together, we will continue to uphold Commissioner Loree Sutton’s legacy of compassion towards members of the veterans’ community,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.

“Thank you General Sutton for your service to our country and for your direct service to the veterans and their families of New York City. At a time when our city is suffering a housing crisis and the need for increased mental health services, the support and work of DVS is critical. As the spouse of a former Army Officer and war veteran and as a member of the NYC Council Veterans Committee I look forward to working with the incoming commissioner of DVS on behalf of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for this great country,” said Council Member Alicka Amprey-Samuel.

“I commend the Mayor for his choice of James Hendon to lead the city’s Department of Veteran Services,” said Darren Walker, President at the Ford Foundation. “He has chosen a person of character, passion and integrity to lead this vitally important agency. James will be an outstanding public servant and exemplary representative of the veterans’ community in his new role.”

“I want to thank James Hendon, the inaugural director of the NYU Tandon Veterans Future Lab, for his dedicated leadership,” said Jelena Kovačević, Dean NYU Tandon School of Engineering. “His experience in both the military and start-up communities made James uniquely qualified to head the VFL, and he brought the organization well-deserved national visibility with his drive to create entrepreneurial opportunities for other veterans and their spouses. We wish James nothing but the best as he transitions into a new position as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Veterans Services and look forward to continuing to work with him in that capacity.”

Three-year “Start-Up Report”

To commemorate Sutton’s leadership as founding Commissioner of the agency, DVS also released today its “Start-Up Report,” an account of the department’s growth trajectory from 2016 to 2019. The report highlights the department’s key innovations and notable achievements over its first three years, and it looks back at the evolution from its days as the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) to its establishment in 2016 as the City’s first new agency in more than two decades. Growing its staff from just four officials to over 40 strong, the DVS team stands with a clear and unified mission: to foster purpose-driven lives for New York City service members, veterans, and their families.

Highlights from the report include:

  • History: how advocates and City officials joined forces to create the nation’s first municipal-level agency devoted to serving the needs and strengths of service members, veterans, and their families.
  • Facts & stats: demographics of NYC veterans and families, broken down by borough, educational attainment, income, gender, and employment status.
  • Local laws: key information about what local laws impact service members and veterans.
  • Agency operations: a timeline of the agency’s development as well as key features and achievements of the distinct agency units: Housing & Support Services; Engagement & Community Services; and Administration & Operational Services.
  • Social determinants of health: DVS’s approach to mental, physical, and spiritual health—the Core4 Whole Health ModelTM—pioneered by founding commissioner Loree Sutton, developed out of her thirty-year career that culminated with her being the highest ranked psychiatrist in the United States Army.
  • VetConnectNYC: DVS’s “no wrong door” approach to care, details on how the coordinated care network connects service members, veterans, and their families to vetted, free, quality service providers.
  • “How We’re Doing”: Descriptions of the various ways to keep track of DVS activities and outcomes.
  • DVS In Your Borough: Important information on how to find DVS resources without ever leaving your home borough, at our five Veteran Resource Centers.
  • Milestones: From establishing veterans as a protected class in the NYC human rights law to implementing an eviction prevention program for over 12,000 student veterans, a tour of key moments over the agency’s first three years.
  • Innovations & Accolades: From embarking on New York City’s first social impact (“Pay for Success”) program for veterans with PTSD to defending immigrant veterans on a national stage, highlights of innovations and awards DVS and its team achieved thus far.
  • “By the Numbers”: Metrics on essential programs and initiatives, as well as a per-district breakdown of City Council referrals to DVS.

To view or download the DVS Start-Up Report, visit: www.nyc.gov/vets/StartUpReport

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