Serving veterans is a vital part of Prosakuer’s pro bono and corporate social responsibility initiatives.  Knowing that an integrated approach is the best approach to the unique challenges faced by low income veterans, Proskauer recently hosted a panel discussion on the state of veteran affairs locally and nationally, and specifically how to best connect veterans with the services and resources that they need and deserve.

Moderated by Wendy Dessy, Proskauer’s Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility, the panel guests were Ray Toenniessen, Associate Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), and Eric Henry, general counsel for the New York City Department of Veteran Services (DVS).

A recurring theme in the discussion was the challenge that veterans (and their advocates) face in accessing appropriate services and resources.  The panel identified challenges including a lack of coordination among various organizations and agencies providing services, technological barriers and a persistent misunderstanding of military and veteran culture.

Both speakers spoke to specific examples of initiatives aimed at overcoming these challenges. Mr. Henry noted that NYC DVS has developed VetConnect NYC, the nation’s leading coordinated service network to provide the human and technological infrastructure for veterans and their families to gain city-wide access to benefits, resources, and care.  Wherever a veteran first makes contact with NYC services, for example by seeking assistance through Housing and Support Services, a DVS representative will conduct an overall review of the veteran’s situation and coordinate referrals to appropriate city agencies.

Mr. Toenniessen cited similar initiatives at the national level.  AmericaServes is developing a national, coordinated network of organizations equipped with the technological and informational capacity to effectively and efficiently meet the wide range of needs of veterans, transitioning service members, and their families.

The panelists also discussed similar initiatives, including those designed to support the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of veterans and their families, and to provide employment assistance for veterans and their spouses.

Overall, the panel noted the tremendous progress that has been made regarding the coordination of veterans services, as well as the work that still needs to be done.

This discussion was hosted in connection with a quarterly lunch meeting of the Bloomberg LP/Proskauer pro bono partnership with The City Bar Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project (VAP).  VAP provides low-income veterans in New York City with pro bono legal assistance on issues related to their claims for service-connected disability compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The insights provided by Mr. Toenniessen and Mr. Henry will enable Bloomberg LP and Proskauer to continue to build on VAP’s success.