Rangel Highlights Importance of Helping Veterans
New York, NY - On Monday, November 4, 2013, Congressman Charles B. Rangel hosted “A Day to Honor Our Heroes,” an event that featured presentations on veterans' issues such as healthcare, homelessness, joblessness, as well as a veterans jobs fair, assistance with backlogs on Veterans Affairs benefits and the opportunity to an oral history recording. Held at the Bronx Community College, the event attracted veterans from all over Congressman Rangel's district that includes Upper Manhattan and stretches to the Bronx.
“With Veterans Day just around the corner, we must remember that our brave heroes are counting on us for help on the homefront,” said Rangel. “Many of our servicemen and women struggle needlessly, unaware of the extensive health and career resources our great country offers its veterans.”
The “A Day to Honor Our Heroes” event was made possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of the CUNY Office of Veteran Affairs, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Bronx Community College, the U.S. Department of Labor, the New York State Department of Labor and the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project (VHP).
Along with Congressman Rangel, speakers included Carole M. Berotte Joseph, President of Bronx Community College, and Ray West, the school's student-veteran representative who spoke about the obstacles returning soldiers face when readjusting to civilian life.
"When I returned from service I found myself living on a friend's couch," said West. "Many people are not aware of the extent of problems veterans face; many veterans are too proud to ask for help."
Attendees were briefed by representatives of various VA programs. For instance, Jodie A. Jackson highlighted the extensive reach of the NY Harbor Healthcare System, and the various Veterans Centers located in all five boroughs. Yvette Bronson spoke about the VA Vital Initiative, which helps soldiers transition into students. Julie Irwin underscored the importance of providing a supportive housing network through the VA's Veteran Homeless Prevention Service. Nicholas Higgens, spokesperson for the Veterans’ History Project Oral Histories, explained the importance of recording Veterans testimonials as a method of preserving important moments in American History.
“I ask that you all reach out to our veterans,” said Rangel. “When I came back from Korea, I was awarded with medals, but I did not have a high school diploma. It was not long before I was stuck rolling around delivery carts. I knew the VA could help me for the better so I reached out and I haven't looked back ever since.”
In the afternoon, participants were able to access the VA Mobile Health Unit to discuss health care concerns and enroll for VA Healthcare. Employment resources were also offered by the Department of Labor in the form of training and career counseling. Veterans were able to record their personal experiences with the Veterans’ History Project, preserving their testimony on the realities of war for the benefit of future generations.
A decorated Korean War veteran with the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal, Rangel has always has long been a fervent supporter of America's fighting men and women. During his extensive congressional career, he led the establishment of the Office of Minority Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Outreach Center in Harlem. He has also advocated the rights of our gay and lesbian veterans by introducing the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which would correct the records of individuals who were dishonorably charged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Currently, he is fighting to pass the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2013. The law would allow telemedicine to be accessed by veterans outside of federal buildings.
“This day is really about fulfilling our duty to our veterans who have so selflessly served our nation,” said Rangel. “ For example, I am pushing forward H.R. 2001, the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2013, which could make the improve the lives of these extraordinary individuals by allowing them to access their health care professionals with greater ease.”