Veterans and Their Families

“As Public Advocate, I’ll keep the focus on the office’s ombudsman’s role, addressing the complaints and issues New Yorkers face. Perhaps nowhere is that role more deeply needed than with our city’s veterans. The issues facing our city’s heroes have never been so dire, and veterans and their families need a champion to help cut through the morass of city and federal government.”

By New York City Charter mandate, the Public Advocate’s Office is required to operate as an Ombudsman, and throughout the office’s brief history since 1994, it has had an Ombuds Unit in one form or another, with staff, interns and volunteers fielding constituent calls and walk-ins.

With our “Advocate Think Tank” proposal, the Public Advocate’s Office will have a team of Research Fellows available to not only assist an enhanced Ombuds Unit – by helping with veteran-related intake and case files – but they will also work to liaise with the agencies and organizations that deal directly and indirectly with veterans’ issues in order to help provide better access and increased service from federal, state and local government, as well as the private sector.

The Advocate Think Tank can also take the data regarding veteran issues from the Ombuds Intake Unit, sort through it and then determine emerging trends and areas that need specific focus. This important research can then be forwarded to the veterans community and the many organizations that play a pivotal role in providing essential services.

All Americans should know about the VA’s compensation claims backlog, and the lack of opportunities for those who served our country. We must expand employment opportunities for returning veterans, make more units of transitional then permanent housing available and increase funding for the grants that enable the construction and renovation of these units. Veterans who own small businesses can often get preference in the awarding of federal contracts, but the paperwork requirements must be streamlined and the claims expedited.

Although medical advances in the field of battle are keeping soldiers alive, their care cannot end once they return to the U.S. PTSD and traumatic brain injuries are rapidly rising; military veteran suicide rates are soaring; returning servicewomen are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population; and the Vietnam era vets are aging and need increased care. The challenges are daunting.

The Public Advocate can make the public and an often over-burdened government more aware of these challenges facing our veterans. The “bully pulpit” can be a powerful thing if there is an equally powerful voice utilizing it. Cathy Guerriero has the passion, the smarts and the will to do right by our veterans. She will be a strong voice and engaging presence for New York City’s veteran community.

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