Soldier: NYC needs to better inform its vets

“As a soldier, you’re not thinking about, ‘What’s waiting for me at home,’” veteran Maria Canales says. “You’re just thinking, ‘I want to be home.’”

The city isn’t doing enough to inform returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of all the services available to them, one soldier told Metro.

Maria Canales shelled out hundreds of dollars to study at the City University of New York. But as an Iraq war veteran, Canales was eligible for free college aid — something she didn’t know.

She used the GI Bill to pay for tuition, but didn’t know a CUNY program would have funded her books and supplies.

“I didn’t realize until I was done with the semester,” she said. “I had to pay out of pocket.” She estimated spending at least $500 on books alone.

Canales — 30 years old and a resident of Ridgewood, Queens — said she and other veterans are often in the dark about how city services can help them.

“Services that are available, you don’t really know they are unless you dig,” she said.

Just last week, the City Council’s Committee on Veterans met to discuss ways to improve their help to soldiers’ families.

Canales, who’s working as a temp at a Midtown financial technology firm, also didn’t know the city would help her find a full-time job. She only found out about CUNY’s program from hospital staffers during a checkup.

“It doesn’t make me angry,” she said. “It makes me sort of disappointed that … the information is definitely not shared enough.”

Help for vets

Veterans are eligible for an array of city services:

» The city maintains health insurance for employees’ families when they’re called to active duty.
» The Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs helps veterans evaluate benefit issues.
» America Works helps city veterans find employment.
» The City’s Workforce 1 Centers provide training for veterans who want to work in health care.
» Qualified veterans can apply for a property tax exemption.
» Programs like Project Torch  help keep veterans off the streets.


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