Retired Army brigadier general named NYC's VA commissioner
NEW YORK — A retired brigadier general who was the Army's highest-ranking psychiatrist was named Monday as New York's veterans affairs' commissioner, promising she'll use her expertise in post-traumatic stress disorder to serve the city's 200,000 veterans.
"I'm a warrior for veterans," Dr. Loree Sutton told a City Hall news conference.
She was introduced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said that although veterans' affairs is mostly the responsibility of the federal government, the city must ease their struggles.
"I will do whatever it takes to speak out on behalf of those who have no voice, those who have no home, those who have no job, and together we will move forward, stronger," she said.
Sutton, 55, of Brooklyn, starts her job — with a salary of $192,198 — on Sept. 2. She takes over from Terrance Holliday, who served under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Sutton said she'll treat PTSD as an affliction on a par with physical injuries, and will also strengthen the relationships among public and private veterans' organizations.
Many soldiers return from combat thinking "once I am a warrior and veteran, I am always a warrior and veteran," she said, and that state of mind makes the transition to civilian life "an enduring challenge."
"It's not easy to transition from being a target to shopping at Target," she added, jokingly.
Sutton acknowledged the nationwide gridlock in veterans' medical services and said she'll thoroughly review them in New York. But she said she herself registered at a VA facility in Brooklyn and has been satisfied.
Sutton retired from the Army in 2010 as a mental health and brain injuries specialist who served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt.