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New York City Council’s Committee on Veterans Hearing

by Cheryl Lopez January 29, 2020

Pictured above: With the City Bar Justice Center: Veterans Assistance Project Director Kent Eiler (left), with the Volunteer of Legal Service: Legal Director Peter Kempner (center), with the New York County Defender Services Sam Sloane (right).

The Veterans Assistance Project (VAP) recently testified before New York City Council’s Committee on Veterans on behalf of the City Bar Justice Center (CBJC). On January 21, 2020, VAP’s Program Director, Kent Eiler, participated in a public hearing aimed at exploring the future of the city’s Department of Veteran’s Service (DVS).

According to the federal Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the VA’s $1.7 billion annual footprint in New York City shrinks each year. During the fiscal year of 2017-2018, its annual footprint shrunk by more than $25 million dollars meaning less funding for the city’s veteran community. Kent encouraged DVS to consider adopting strategies to address the reduction in funding by supporting initiatives such as the Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of public service programs (including VAP) that advocates for veteran-focused legal services and works towards securing recipients with compensation and benefits they are entitled to. Kent referenced a report released by the New York City Bar Association, which details that less than 17% of NYC veterans receive VA Benefits they are entitled to which is a significant contrast from the national rate where about 24% of all veterans secure VA Benefits.

The Department of Veteran’s Service serves as a liaison between service providers and program recipients. Advocates like VAP believe DVS is integral to helping low-income or disabled veterans obtain essential resources they are eligible for. Kent recommends increased collaboration between DVS and relevant stakeholders to address issues that impact the livelihood and wellbeing of veterans. Together, they can identify and root out service gaps to better serve the veteran community.

Please click here to watch Kent Eiler’s testimony, it begins at 01:53:25.

Cheryl Lopez is the Communications & Development Manager for the City Bar Justice Center.

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