Jeff Roth: Building a Government Startup
On April 8, 2016, the New York City Department of Veterans Services (DVS) opened its doors as the first new NYC agency in at least 15 years. It is the first and only autonomous municipal department devoted solely to improving the lives of veterans and their families.
I’m honored to serve as the City’s Department of Veterans’ Services’ First Deputy Commissioner. I’ve now been onboard since late May, and have helped this agency build a highly diverse and talented team of professionals. Check out a few highlights of our progress.
Staffing the Startup
First, we are staffing our startup agency to reach full operating capacity.
Currently, we have 26 personnel on board, with 5 more new hires pending, and plan to reach our full staff of 35 by early 2017.
We are underway with onboarding personnel for our Integrative Health and Community Resilience strategic line of action. Our Assistant Commissioner, Dr. Darlene Brown-Williams, is on board, as is the senior staff for the line of action. They are also in the process of hiring top candidates for her integrative health coordinator positions.
Our other two strategic lines of action are already staffed, though are still filling key positions. Those lines are Housing and Support Services, and Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship.
Building Diversity and a Commitment to Service
I am very proud of the fact that our agency looks very much like the city we serve. Our diversity of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives will establish a dynamic team and a strong foundation to understand the needs of the NYC veteran community.
All of our employees are veterans of service. Some have served in the military (close to 2/3 of the agency) others in the public sector or in non-profits, but all of us are guided by a shared commitment to service. We have built a first-rate team and I look forward to what we will do together!
DVS’ Lines of Action
We are aggressively pursuing an end to veteran homelessness in NYC by achieving a new major milestone known as “functional zero.” Functional zero means that any new homeless veteran coming into the shelter system will find permanent housing within 90-days. This is a major step following the end of chronic veteran homelessness in NYC in December 2015.
We are also moving towards establishing satellite offices in each of the city’s boroughs where veterans can find one-on-one support from trained outreach coordinators. We have offices in the Bronx (at Bronx Borough Hall), Queens (at Queens Borough Hall) and Staten Island (at Staten Island Borough Hall and the College of Staten Island), with announcements pending for locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. This will be a huge step forward in helping NYC veterans and their families connect and navigate the many resources available to them.
And finally, we are exploring procurement options to continue to provide NY Serves-NYC. This service allows veterans to access a coordination center to connect to benefits either online, via phone or even in-person. It will also allow the agency to begin to gather data on the needs of our veterans, and better target resources and ultimately programming to better meet and address those demands.
Promotion in the Army National Guard
I also want to mention that I was honored to be promoted in the New York Army National Guard (NYARNG) from Major to Lieutenant Colonel in October. Several military members in attendance remarked that they have never been part of a promotion ceremony held at a civilian place of employment. Given the uniqueness of this agency, I thought it perfectly fitting. And, my Commissioner joined my parents in pinning on my new rank!
As we reflect on November and the ceremonial honors and events surrounding Veterans Day, the City continues to lead by investing in their veterans in a big way. All in an effort to ensure that NYC veterans receive all the support they need and have earned. We exist because, as our Commissioner Loree Sutton reminds us, we will stop at nothing to do as much as possible for the veterans we serve.
Jeffery Roth is the Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Veterans Services