Biden plan to close city VA hospitals is a thumb-in-the-eye to vets

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A local Vietnam veteran and double amputee credited the Brooklyn VA Medical Center for having saved his life. Another veteran who suffers from PTSD relies on the counseling he receives to get through his days.

Still other veterans in our city depend on these specialized hospitals for critical health services, ranging from suicide prevention to cancer treatment, emergency care and even vocational rehabilitation.

A reported 26% of all veterans nationwide have some sort of service-related disability, and the number increases to about 40% for younger veterans who served post-9/11. They depend greatly on VA medical services.

Veterans who are taken by ambulance to VA hospitals, for example, are 20% more likely to survive than those taken to non-VA hospitals, and that survival rate increases even more for black and Latino veterans. Veterans who take advantage of the VA’s peer-to-peer treatment programs are more likely to go to their appointments, seek out other treatment methods and meet “other important health benchmarks.”

That’s why it’s so shocking and disturbing that the Biden administration’s Department of Veteran Affairs is recommending that two of New York City’s local VA hospitals be closed and that another share services with a medical campus in another state.

Under the VA’s recommended plan — which will be formally announced on Monday — the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Medical Centers would close entirely, contracting out inpatient and outpatient services to private medical providers as part of a new “strategic collaboration.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs Harbor Healthcare System at 800 Poly Place in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Harbor Healthcare System in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn could be on the chopping block.
Helayne Seidman

While veteran mental-health services would be expanded on Staten Island, the clinic would be paired with a VA medical campus in New Jersey. This means veterans who are patients at the Staten Island clinic would be forced to travel upwards of two hours round trip and face a burdensome $16 toll (if they even have a car) to receive specialized treatment. This is simply unacceptable.

This news comes as the need for robust and easily accessible medical services for veterans in New York City remains extraordinarily high. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2019 there were approximately 138,000 veterans living in the New York City metropolitan area.

Nearly 75% of these veterans are senior citizens who desperately need easy access to the valuable medical resources in our community. Forcing these veterans to travel to another state or wait longer for appointments is a disservice to those who’ve served.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis is calling on the Department of Veteran Affairs to keep funding New York City’s VA hospitals.
Michael Brochstein/ZUMA Press Wire

As a Republican, I’ve always called for fiscal responsibility and a reduction in spending, but when it comes to our veterans, the services we offer them should not be rolled back. There’s no moral or fiscal reason to cut resources from these heroes, who all too often find the services they need on the very lists the government is proposing to cut.

It’s particularly frustrating that these cuts are being proposed under a president, Joe Biden, who has indicated that he supports free health care for illegal immigrants. Besides, the Veteran’s Health Administration is fully funded and will even be seeing increases in the newly adopted federal budget.

Veterans have always been willing to fight and die for our nation. Our federal government shouldn’t be putting them in a position to have to fight proposed cuts to their health care, too.

Don’t close our VA hospitals — give our veterans everything they need to remain healthy.

Nicole Malliotakis represents New York’s 11th Congressional District which encompasses Staten Island and parts of Southern Brooklyn. She plans to hold a rally with local veterans on Sunday at 2 p.m. outside the Brooklyn VA Medical Center (7th Avenue and Poly Place) to protest the administration’s recommendations.

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