Donovan Introduces Bill to Improve VA Accountability
Washington, DC—June 19, 2018….Continuing his work to support those who have defended our freedom, Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11) today introduced the Veterans Awareness (VA) Act to improve accountability and transparency at VA medical centers. The bill will require increased information sharing between the VA and local veterans and elected officials related to planned service changes or closures at VA medical facilities across the country. Donovan’s legislation is a direct response to feedback he received from Staten Island and Brooklyn veterans at previous roundtable events.
Congressman Donovan said, “Complaints related to the Brooklyn VA Medical Center’s lack of communication, closures, and issues with services have persisted for too long – and I know this problem isn’t unique to our community. The women and men who’ve served our country deserve answers and responsiveness from the facilities they rely on. A doctor’s office would never just cease service and not proactively contact their patients – it shouldn’t be any different at a VA facility. My bill will increase transparency regarding decisions being made at the VA to better support veterans and ensure their concerns are heard.”
The legislation will require the VA to notify veterans and local Congressional representatives of planned service changes or terminations at any local VA medical center 60 days before the proposal can be implemented. Additionally, it will order the VA to host a forum where veterans and other stakeholders can testify about proposed changes. These reforms will ensure that veterans are notified of service changes and allow people who rely on these facilities to detail how proposals will impact their lives.
Donovan’s measure will impact VA facilities nationwide, but the idea stemmed from ongoing issues seen at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center (VAMC). Staten Island and Brooklyn veterans have been frustrated by the lack of communication from the Brooklyn VAMC regarding closures, changes in services, and long term plans for the facility. During roundtable events, Donovan has heard how the local VA continually fails to tell residents and officials that services are being terminated until after the policy is implemented. This has hampered their ability to access the care they need and prevented them from advocating against certain proposals.
Today’s proposal follows Donovan’s previous work to protect services at the Brooklyn VAMC, which thousands of Staten Island and Brooklyn veterans rely on for care each year. This week, he sent a letter to the Director of the VA NY Harbor Health Care System inquiring about closures and other issues plaguing the Brooklyn VAMC. Earlier this month, he led a rally with the NYC Veterans Alliance and local veterans to fight the proposed termination of the Brooklyn VAMC’s ear, nose, and throat (ENT) Clinic. It was recently announced that the ENT Clinic will remain open. Last year, Donovan was instrumental in reversing a proposal that would have significantly reduced critical services available at the Brooklyn VAMC.
Kristen Rouse, U.S. Army Veteran and Founding Director of NYC Veterans Alliance, said, "We appreciate Congressman Donovan's leadership and focused attention on keeping services open and available to veterans who rely on the Brooklyn VA. We also fully support his effort to press forward needed legislation to ensure we do not see repeated attempts to reduce VA services in Brooklyn or anywhere else in the country without appropriate prior notification. No veteran who fought for this country should have to fight continuously here at home just to keep the doors open on the healthcare and services they've earned."
Mike Garguilo, President of Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 New York, said, “We’re thankful for Congressman Donovan’s unwavering support and work to keep services at the Brooklyn VAMC. When the Veteran community speaks Congressman Donovan listens. Staten Island veterans rely on the Brooklyn medical facility to easily access care, which is highlighted by the local engagement seen anytime changes to services have been proposed. This legislation will be critical to improving communication between the VA and local veterans, as well as strengthening the ability for vets to advocate their needs. I hope to see this proposal advance through Congress quickly.”
Danny Friedman, President of the Brooklyn Chapter 72 of Vietnam Veterans of America, said, “Brooklyn Chapter 72 of Vietnam Veterans of America strongly supports legislation that would require advance notification by the VA of any planned closures or reduction of services. While we have representatives who sit on the Brooklyn VAMC’s VAVS Committee, we have never been told of past plans to change certain services or close certain departments. This proposed legislation will require the VA to keep our elected representatives and our veterans’ organizations in the loop for all matters that effect services to those who served our country. VVA 72 thanks Congressman Donovan and his staff for their support.”
Herb Morales, Commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 154, said, “DAV-154, strongly supports legislation that would require advance notification by the VA of any planned reductions in services or any closures that will impact veterans that use the VA Hospitals. Any closures at the Brooklyn VA hospital not only impacts Brooklyn veterans but also Staten Island veterans. The Brooklyn VAMC was critical following Superstorm Sandy. Veterans relied on the Brooklyn facility for all their services because the Manhattan site was closed due to damage. We must ensure that services at the Brooklyn VAMC are protected. Thank you Congressman Donovan and everyone involved for all the help you have given on this matter.”