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Council Member Vallone’s Bill: New York City to Track Veterans Receiving Benefits

 

New York City would be required to track the number of veterans applying for and receiving city benefits, under legislation passed Thursday by the City Council.

Though the city’s estimated 200,000 veterans are eligible to receive certain housing and employment benefits, lawmakers said they don’t know how many are applying for and receiving them. The bill, sponsored by Councilman Paul Vallone, would force certain city agencies to report the number of veterans and their surviving spouses who are seeking and receiving help.

Most veterans benefits are managed by the federal government but some city agencies, such as the New York City Housing Authority, oversee programs that administer benefits to veterans. NYCHA, for example, administers the federal Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, which provides rental assistance for homeless veterans.

Mr. Vallone, a Queens Democrat, said the legislation would increase accountability of city agencies to veterans.

A second bill passed Thursday would impose a number of transparency measures on the Veterans Advisory Board, a group of nine appointed by the mayor and the City Council.

As part of the legislation, sponsored by Council members Mathieu Eugene and Eric Ulrich, the board would be required to meet publicly at least five times each year, and post the email addresses of its members on its website. The bill, also expected to be signed into law by Mr. de Blasio, adds two members to the board, to be chosen by the mayor and speaker.

“It is our moral obligation to make sure we do everything possible to serve them, to give them back some of what they’ve given us,” Mr. Eugene said Thursday.

Veterans’ advocates said they supported the package of legislation but urged the city to fill the body’s open board seats. All but two of the seats are empty or expired, according to the board’s website.

A spokesman for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a veterans group, referred to testimony the group gave before the City Council earlier this month in which they said they were concerned about the empty seats.

“We would urge the mayor and speaker to appoint new members, or reappoint existing members, expeditiously,” the IAVA said in the Feb. 10 testimony.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito didn’t give a timetable for filling the seats but said the council was “taking it very seriously.” She added that she would like to see more women on the board.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

See Full Article by Mara Gay at the Wall Street Journal