Commissioner Viviana DeCohen
Appointed in December 2021, Viviana DeCohen became the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Veterans’ Services.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Viviana DeCohen previously served as the Commissioner of the Mount Vernon Veterans Service Agency, and Associate Pastor at Mt. Vernon Heights Congregational Church.
She has dedicated her time and talent to assisting veterans, ensuring food, shelter, clothing, education, employment, and a little motivation, earning her the affectionate title of “Mama V.”
Her military service allowed her to earn a Bachelor’s in Behavioral Science, and a Master’s in Health Service Management, both from Mercy College where she received her start formally working with veterans and developing programs to enhance their academic and overall wellness.
She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Gerontology, at Concordia University, Chicago.
Executive Deputy Commissioner, Joel Evans
Joel Evans is the Executive Deputy Commissioner for the New York State Department of Veterans’ Services. In his current role, he oversees the daily operations of the agency throughout the State and works closely with both the director and executive staff to ensure the highest quality services and programs are available for veterans, service members, and their families. He has been with the agency since November 2007 when he was hired as a State Veterans Benefits Advisor.
Mr. Evans joined the U.S. Navy in 1984 and served as a torpedoman until 1996. He participated in Combat Operations during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. In 1996, he started his Naval Recruiting Career. His last four years of service were in the Hudson Valley working in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Rockland, and Orange Counties. He retired from the Navy in August 2007 as a Chief Petty Officer.
Mr. Evans is a native of Brooklyn, New York.
Special Assistant for Community Engagement, Dr. Lessie Branch
Lessie Branch is the Special Assistant for Community Engagement for the New York State Department of Veterans' Services. In this role, she leads a team that supports public programming and initiatives for the Veterans of New York State and their families. In addition to traditional outreach activities for Veterans, her team is increasing efforts to reach women, minorities, and faith-based Veterans.
Dr. Branch joined the U.S. Navy in 1982 and served in various capacities. After leaving active duty in 1986, she served in the U.S. Navy Reserves, after which she enrolled in NROTC as a midshipman, but decided to pursue a different career path.
Dr. Branch is a public and urban policy scholar with a focus on racial socioeconomic and political disparities. She uses her skills, knowledge, and abilities to raise the visibility of human rights challenges and uses her public policy training to mitigate the disparities and create policy solutions to close these gaps. As an equity advocate, Dr. Branch works to make the invisible visible by exposing and reframing harmful speech and language in social policy and other narratives. She does this by helping people to think critically about how language assigns and transfers blame for inequity to those at the margins of society. She promotes social justice-minded education and restorative policies that advocate targeted economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. Dr. Branch cultivates strategies for individual and collective action for success.
Deputy Commissioner of Administration, Jason Chakot
Jason Chakot is the Deputy Commissioner of Administration for the New York State Department of Veterans’ Services. In this role, he assists with ensuring a productive workflow, execution and tracking of Human Resources and fiscal matters within the agency. He joined the agency in September 2010 and served in multiple roles.
As a U.S. Army veteran, he takes pride in the fact he continues to serve Veterans, Service members and their families.
Veterans Education Program Manager, William Clarke
William Clarke is the Veterans Education Program Manager for the New York State Department of Veterans’ Services, Bureau of Veterans Education. In this role, he facilitates the efforts of the agency in promoting and safeguarding quality education and training programs, ensuring greater education and training opportunities, and protecting the integrity of the G.I. Bill for veterans.
Mr. Clarke joined the Navy in 1982 and served as a Storekeeper Chief Petty Officer on several submarines until he retired in May 2006.
General Counsel, Jonathan Fishbein
Jonathan Fishbein is the General Counsel for the New York State Department of Veterans’ Services. In this role, he is the lead on legislative priorities for the agency and manages the legal needs and concerns in regards to laws, regulations and proposed legislation for New York’s veterans, service members and their families.
Previously, he ran a private law firm for 22 years. Mr. Fishbein is a trained mediator and arbitrator, and served 17 years on the Board of Mediation Matters as secretary and later president. He is a former competitive Ice Dancer and for over 25 years held appointments as a figure skating judge.
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Juris Doctor degree from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
Deputy Commissioner, Angela Indardeo
Angela Indardeo is a Deputy Commissioner for the New York State Department of Veterans' Services. In this role, she leads the Eastern Region of New York State. She joined the agency in 2023, after serving as a Command Sergeant Major in the United States Army.
Angela is a retired Soldier For Life. She served from 1997 to 2023. As a Soldier, she served as an Allied Trades Specialist, Army Recruiter/Career Counselor, Station Commander, Instructor/Writer/Developer, Division Chief, Master Fitness Trainer, Master Resiliency Trainer, Battalion Master Trainer, First Sergeant, and Command Sergeant Major. Upon transitioning from the U.S. Army, Angela took on the role as a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Instructor at Belleville High School in New Jersey.
She has earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership, a master’s degree in Education, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology, with an emphasis in Performance Psychology.
Angela enjoys spending time with her family in New York, and outdoor activities with her one year old Siberian Husky “Brooklyn.” She appreciates this opportunity to give back to the Veteran community, and their families.
Director of Public Information & Policy, Shannon MacColl
Shannon MacColl is the Director of Public Information and Policy for the New York State Department of Veterans’ Services. In this role, she directs the creation, implementation, and distribution of digital products for the agency, develops policy memos and white papers on topics impacting veterans, service members, and their families, and manages all social media platforms, website, and mobile application for the agency.
Deputy Commissioner for Program Development, Benjamin Pomerance
Benjamin Pomerance is the Deputy Commissioner for Program Development and Training for the New York State Department of Veterans’ Services. In this role, he supervises the Department's Appellate Unit and all of the Department's training efforts, serves as the agency’s Legislative Liaison, and leads several of the Department's programming initiatives. His work focuses on advocacy and assistance for veterans, service members, and military families on a wide variety of legal issues, from disability compensation to discharge upgrades to access to healthcare.
Apart from his work in the law, Benjamin is an avid arts journalist with more than 600 published articles, a pursuit for which he has received first-place awards in feature writing from the New York State Press Association, including the Association’s first-place awards for Best Feature and Best Coverage of the Arts in 2022, 2021, and 2020.
Deputy Commissioner, Paul Romesser
Paul Romesser is a Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Veterans' Services. In this role, he leads the teams of Veterans Benefits Advisors and supports staff throughout the Western Region of New York State. He joined the agency in 2013, where he served as a State Veterans Counselor and Associate Training Technician before assuming the duties as Deputy Commissioner.
Mr. Romesser is a retired Marine Master Sergeant. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1986 to 2008. As a Marine, he served as an infantryman, personnel administrator, and career recruiter. Upon retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, Paul served for five years as the Dean of Students at Western New York Maritime Charter High School.
Paul is married with three children. His oldest son is a U.S. Marine Corps Osprey pilot and his daughter is a U.S. Army Quartermaster Officer & Jump Master.
Special Assistant for Outreach Activities, Morgan Woodson
Morgan Woodson is the Special Assistant for Outreach Activities for the New York State Department of Veterans' Services. In this role, she leads a team that supports public programming and initiatives for the Veterans of New York State and their families. In addition, to traditional outreach activities for Veterans, her team is increasing efforts to reach women, minorities, and faith-based Veterans.
Ms. Woodson joined the U.S. Air Force in 2007 and served as a pharmacy technician at Travis AFB, CA. She medically retired in 2011 after returning home from Afghanistan.
As a native of WNY, she earned her bachelor's degree in business administration from Medaille College and her master's degree in Public Administration from Hilbert College.