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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York

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Donovan Leads Effort to Protect Veteran Access to Medical Care at Brooklyn VA

August 16, 2017
Press Release
Donovan letter joined by Staten Island and Brooklyn elected officials calls for Secretary of Veterans Affairs to reverse decision to reduce critical services at Brooklyn VA Medical Center; New VA proposal would severely impact ability of thousands of Staten Island and Brooklyn veterans to easily access needed medical care

Staten Island, NY – August 16, 2017….Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, NYS Senator Andrew Lanza, NYS Senator Martin J. Golden, NYS Senator Diane Savino, NYS Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz, NYS Assemblyman Ron Castorina, NYS Assemblyman Michael Cusick, NYS Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, NYS Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, NYS Assemblyman Peter Abbate, NYC Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo, NYC Council Minority Whip Joe Borelli, and NYC Council Member Debi Rose today sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to re-consider a plan that would reduce the availability of critical services at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center (VAMC). The proposal, which calls for the Brooklyn VAMC to be modified from a “Complex” to “Ambulatory Advanced” facility, would severely impact the ability of Staten Island and Brooklyn veterans to easily access the medical care and services they rely on.

The letter cites the importance of the Brooklyn VAMC to local New York City area veterans, which depend on the facility to conveniently access quality medical services in their local community. While the new proposal states that veterans will be accommodated at the Manhattan VAMC for services, it doesn’t take into account the difficulties veterans and their families would face to travel into the city. The commute would be a hardship for many veterans, particularly the elderly and disabled, and could cause them to delay or forego necessary medical treatments.

Additionally, the Brooklyn VAMC served as a critical facility for all local NYC veterans following Hurricane Sandy. During this time, veterans relied on the Brooklyn VAMC for all services because the Manhattan VAMC facility was severely damaged by the storm and closed for several months. Modifying the Brooklyn facility’s capabilities would negatively impact the VA’s ability to properly serve thousands of veterans following another high intensity storm.

Congressman Dan Donovan said, “Our nation’s veterans risked life and limb to defend and protect our nation and way of life. Now these brave men and women count on us to ensure that they have access to benefits and services they earned. Our veterans have sacrificed enough, and it’s unacceptable for any past or present service member to lose access or go through increased hurdles to get the medical services they rely on. I will continue fighting on behalf of all New York City veterans to ensure that this proposal is defeated.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams said, “I stand with Representative Donovan as well as my colleagues in Brooklyn and Staten Island who are fighting to preserve critical services at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center. Local veterans would be deeply impacted by any reduction in services and/or care at our facility in Bay Ridge, particularly the elderly and disabled. Top-flight medical care should be available to every veteran in a local and convenient fashion.”

NYS Senator Andrew Lanza said, "The Brooklyn VA Medical Center is a crucial resource. Countless veterans have taken comfort in knowing that they have reliable access to VA doctors and medical treatments. Moving these resources elsewhere will unacceptably reduce accessibility. I stand firmly with Congressman Dan Donovan; this proposal must not be advanced."

NYS Senator Martin J. Golden said, “Our veterans deserve a fully functional local hospital with a wide array of services to accommodate their unique medical needs. Our veterans should not be forced to travel to Manhattan to receive the tests, treatments and programs of which they are entitled.  Instead, we should be looking for ways to expand our local VA hospitals so that each borough will have an easily accessible medical facility that meets the demands of the growing local veteran population.”

NYS Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz said, “Veterans health is a critically important issue. As a veteran, I want to ensure that the men and women who served in our military must always be a top priority when it comes to health care. Let’s keep our medical care and facilities accessible to all those in the New York area. Nothing else is acceptable.”   

NYS Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz said, "Veterans in my district, many of whom are elderly and frail, rely on the Brooklyn VA Medical Center for their day-to-day medical needs and cannot travel long distances for the care they require. Reducing services at the Brooklyn VA would not only imperil their lives but is also an insult to thousands of people who served our country with honor and deserve better treatment from our leaders."

NYS Assemblyman Peter Abbate said, “It is vital that we maintain services at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center.  We should be looking at ways to expand the offerings that veterans from across New York City have come to rely on, not reduce them. The Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington should reconsider this action and keep all of Brooklyn VA’s critical services funded and functional.”

City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo said, “Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and NYHHS Director Martina Parauda should come to Staten Island and experience firsthand the hellish commutes our residents face each and every day. Then they can look the tens of thousands of veterans who live here in their eyes and try to tell them that moving critical healthcare services to Manhattan will not affect their access to these services. At a time when medical care for veterans who live in New York City has already been reduced, this would be another slap in the face to the men and women who served and defended our country. I strongly urge Secretary Shulkin and Director Parauda to reconsider this ill-advised plan.”

NYC Council Member Debi Rose said, “Forcing our veterans—and those wishing to visit them after surgery—to travel through Brooklyn and into Manhattan won't just add minutes to their commute; it will add hours, during their time of greatest need. We speak a lot about the need to support our veterans and repay our debt to them, but words must be backed up with action. We should not be reducing any services and instead focus on providing quality, convenient medical care to those who have served our country.”

Kristen Rouse, U.S. Army Veteran and Founding Director of NYC Veterans Alliance said, “Any reduction in services offered by the Brooklyn VA Hospital will make it more difficult for veterans to access the care they've earned. Many of us still remember the months and years of problems at the Manhattan VA caused by Hurricane Sandy, and are alarmed that services in Brooklyn seem to be vanishing before our eyes. The Department of Veterans Affairs must ensure veterans in Brooklyn and Staten Island can access high quality care. The NYC Veterans Alliance joins Rep. Donovan in calling on the VA to reverse the reduction of services at the Brooklyn VA Hospital."

Michael Sulsona, Junior Vice Commandant of the Staten Island Marine Corps League said, “The Brooklyn VA has been treating and caring for thousands of veterans for decades. It is a home away from home for many returning veterans in need. It is a monument of care and an example of how our veterans are to be cared for both physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We need to continue to build on the established fundamentals of that healthcare center, not remove it and turn it into a basic ambulatory clinic. It’s hard enough for our Staten Island veterans to get to Brooklyn, never mind Manhattan!”

Michael Garguilo, President of Rolling Thunder NY2 said, “Any reduction of medical services would be detrimental to our Staten Island veterans. To expect these heroes to somehow get to Manhattan would be a tremendous burden. Rolling Thunder NY2 has worked with the Congressman on trying to arrange transportation from Staten Island to the Brooklyn VA, which is already difficult but do-able when compared to getting into the city. We as a chapter feel there is a need for a full service hospital in Brooklyn.”

Raymond Aalbue, Executive Director of the United Military Veterans of Kings County said, "Our government should be adding services for Veterans, not taking them away. Eliminating any of the services at the Brooklyn campus would adversely affect so many Veterans and their families who totally rely on the services offered there. The New York campus is just too difficult to get to. The Secretary should come and experience it for himself."

Gene DiGiacomo, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Thomas J. Tori Chapter 421 said, “I am fully aware of the hardships that many of our veterans go through just getting to the Brooklyn VA Hospital. That being said it is completely unacceptable that the Veterans Administration now is considering removing a vital service from that hospital and moving it further away. I strongly condemn this latest irresponsible move that will further burden the men and women that have served this country.”

Herbert Morales, Commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 154 said, “As a disabled Vietnam veteran, I can attest to the hardship this change has created not only in my life, but for all veterans that rely on the Brooklyn VA hospital for services. Traveling into Manhattan is not only difficult due to the heavy traffic and limited parking, but it’s also extremely expensive. My family experienced these commuting problems, as well as the financial strain of paying for parking and tolls, firsthand after I had heart surgery at the Manhattan VA. No family or veteran should be further burdened while receiving lifesaving care, and transferring services to the Manhattan VA does just that.

George E. Parsons, Commander of the Korean War Veterans of Staten Island said, “I would like to express my serious concerns about the reduction of critical services at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center. I have over 150 members whose average age is 85 years old, and traveling to Manhattan would be extremely difficult and a hardship for them and their families. Those who faithfully served their country when called deserve to know they won’t be forgotten.”

Thomas Trombone, Past Commander of American Legion Post 688 said, “The Brooklyn VA campus is relied on by thousands of veterans from NYC and areas of New Jersey who can conveniently access the campus because of its large parking area. Navigating through Manhattan traffic is a problem of its own, so imagine trying to park in the middle of NYC during an emergency situation. No proposal should reduce services to veterans that were promised medical coverage by the government.”

Altering the Brooklyn VAMC from “Complex” to “Ambulatory Advanced” would end the availability of certain inpatient surgeries, including open heart procedures, joint reconstructions, coronary artery bypass grafts, and appendectomies, at the hospital.

Thousands of veterans rely on the Brooklyn VAMC for care each year. The proposal to change the facilities operative complexity has received strong opposition from local veterans groups, including the NYC Veterans Alliance, Korean War Veterans of Staten Island, Disabled American Veterans (Chapter 154), Vietnam Veterans of American (Thomas J. Tori Chapter 421), United Military Veterans of Kings County, and Rolling Thunder NY2.

Full text of the letter below:

August 16, 2017

The Honorable David J. Shulkin
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420
 
Re:     Brooklyn VA Medical Center
 
Dear Secretary Shulkin:

We write to express my serious concerns regarding a proposal being circulated by the New York Harbor Healthcare System Director to reduce critical services at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center. It’s suggested that the facility would be modified from “Complex” to “Ambulatory Advanced,” which would severely affect access to medical care for veterans from my district. Any decision that might limit or deny health care to thousands of veterans throughout the New York City area should be re-considered, and I urge you to reverse this decision.

The Brooklyn VA Medical Center allows veterans from Staten Island and Brooklyn to easily access the quality care, rehabilitation programs, and medical services they not only earned, but deserve, in their local community. While the new proposal states that veterans will be accommodated at the Manhattan VAMC for services, it doesn’t take into account the difficulties veterans and their families would face to travel into the city. The commute would be a hardship for many veterans, particularly the elderly and disabled, and could cause them to delay or forego necessary medical treatments.

Additionally, the Brooklyn VAMC is a critical facility for all New York City residents. Following Hurricane Sandy, the Manhattan VAMC was severely damaged and closed for several months. During this time, veterans relied on the Brooklyn VAMC for all services. Modifying the Brooklyn facility’s capabilities would negatively impact the VA’s ability to properly serve thousands of veterans following another high intensity storm.   

From post-traumatic stress, to rehabilitation, to diseases caused by exposure to explosives or a common cold – whatever the issue might be – every veteran deserves to know that they have access to the VA doctors, nurses, and medical treatments they need. We urge you to fully consider the negative impact this proposal would have on veterans from across New York City and ask for the decision to be reversed.

Thank you for your time on this important matter. 

Sincerely,

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