New York City veterans upset with de Blasio over what he did in Las Vegas

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To hear the folks with the NYC Veterans Alliance tell it, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio only cares about veterans — or feigns to care about them — when it benefits him politically.

Launched in 2015 to advocate on behalf of NYC’s veterans, the group specifically takes issue with the mayor’s decision to hold meetings this weekend with veterans in Las Vegas. The meetings were scheduled as part of de Blasio’s recently announced campaign for presidency.

“He has never held a similar meeting with NYC veterans during his administration,” a NYC Veterans Alliance spokesperson said to the New York Post. According to an official statement released by the group’s website, it’s been trying to secure a meeting with him since day one:

“In the fall of 2015, as pressure was mounting on Mayor de Blasio to approve legislation to create an independent city agency providing veterans’ services, the NYC Veterans Alliance and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America invited the Mayor to a town hall to take place in Manhattan with veterans representing numerous veteran service organizations and community organizations active in the city.”

But he refused: “He was unwilling to participate in person at the town hall.”

Yet here he was Saturday morning arriving at a meeting in downtown Las Vegas with 20 or so veterans:

During the meeting, he complained about money not being appropriated for veterans.

“The money to improve the lives of veterans and everyday people exists, but it is in the wrong hands, he said,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “First lady of New York City Chirlane McCray joined her husband on the campaign trip, telling crowds of the importance of providing mental health resources and reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness.”

“I am appalled that this is not the number one priority for our nation because the most important part of our nation is its people,” she reportedly told the group of veterans.

Meanwhile, de Blasio stressed the need for veterans to be helped.

“You should not have to search and struggle and, you know, pray that you can find the help you deserve,” he said. “Why is the help not coming to you? It’s easy to find the folks that served us, you know?”

Yet according to the NYC Veterans Alliance, de Blasio’s latest budget cut $118,000 from service programs for military veterans and their family members. This isn’t his first round of cuts either. Back in 2017 he spurred outrage after proposing cutting veteran services by $300,000.

“Any attempts to cut back on those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that I can speak freely should be fought back with resistance,” Public Advocate Letitica James said at the time.

“I stand here today with all of these veterans, who serve so that this City Council and all of us standing here today can be free. I will fight with all of my fiber and my voice as public advocate to stand for all of those who have truly made America great.”

Alexander Pas, a Vietnam War veteran who now advocates for veterans, concurred.

“I’ve gotten to learn every aspect of veterans affairs that is needed to become economically stable by one way or another by job training, education, or making the linkage between employer and potential employee,” He said. “Trying to to get veterans their claims it is money that you need for rent and food, and if you don’t have that, you definitely become homeless.”

The mayor’s office pushed back on this criticism at the time by claiming that the $300,000 wouldn’t affect the Department of Veteran Services’ actual services.

“The budget for DVS’s first year as an agency includes one-time expenses associated with starting the agency including computers, phones, desks, chairs, office supplies, community outreach event equipment (including camera, projector screen and event tent), display cases, banners, signs, and consulting services that were only needed during the first year to help organize and structure the agency,” then-assistant press secretary Raul Contreras said.

The department had been launched by de Blasio’s administration a year earlier after extensive pressure was applied on him by veterans’ groups such as NYC Veterans Alliance.

The problem is that, while the mayor claimed that the $300,000 in cuts were just to offset initial startup costs, he’s continued to cut spending almost every single year since.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

Regarding the latest criticism from the NYC Veterans Alliance, de Blasio reportedly “bragg[ed] that he created the first ever city-run agency devoted to veterans and their families and radically reduced homeless among vets,” according to the Post.

“He has made an unprecedented commitment to veterans in NYC,” a spokesperson added.

That’s not inaccurate. Besides launching the DVS, de Blasio has also introduced a special veteran designation to the city’s ID card and launched an online platform that connects NYC veterans to service providers.

“There are an enormous amount of programs and resources available for veterans in New York City, but too often, veterans are unaware of these resources,” NYC Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, a Democrat like de Blasio, said at the time of the network’s launch last year.

“I am excited that the Department of Veterans’ Services is launching VetConnectNYC so that veterans can find all the services they need — whether for education, housing, employment, or healthcare- under one roof.”

What remains unclear is whether the mayor instituted these programs because he cared about veterans, or because he was just trying to improve his perpetually lousy approval rating.

Speaking of his low approval, de Blasio reportedly encountered protests at one of his meetings with veterans on Saturday. Watch:

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

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Vivek Saxena

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