An alarming business plan to reduce critical services for veterans at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center (VAMC) is being circulated amongst the NYC veterans community this week, and we urge our community and elected officials to take note and voice concern.
In the business plan, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System proposes to change its Brooklyn campus surgery office from “Complex” to “Ambulatory Advanced,” stating that the current Brooklyn inpatient surgical cases can be accommodated at the Manhattan VAMC without affecting access to care or wait times. This effectively ends surgical services at the Brooklyn VAMC. The business plan is signed by NYHHS Director Martina Parauda, with an implementation date of July 1, 2017. It is unclear how much of the plan has been implemented to date.
Recent contraction of VA services in Brooklyn has already been very concerning. In 2015, the Brooklyn VAMC closed a 25-bed inpatient wing because it was too expensive to staff and keep open, despite outcry from Staten Island and Brooklyn veterans who rely on the Brooklyn VAMC. Last year, the Harbor Healthcare System closed an outpatient facility on Chapel Street in Downtown Brooklyn, which many underserved veterans relied on for a sense of community as well as meals and ongoing healthcare. Patients were assured that there would be regular shuttle bus service to bring them to Manhattan, but we’ve heard anecdotally that those shuttle buses were not adequate to provide Brooklyn patients with access to the Manhattan VAMC.Read more
by Elana Duffy
Last Friday was a busy day for VA Secretary Shulkin: New legislation for enhanced whistleblower protections and shortened investigative and termination procedures for VA employees was signed into effect, indicating a welcome change in administrative practices to ensure improved quality of service through ensuring the right people with the right priorities are in the right positions.
Following the signature, Secretary Shulkin spoke to the press on issues beyond the bill, hinting at his new direction for VA healthcare. It was during this impromptu presser that Shulkin uttered the words “Our system incentivizes disability, when our system should be incentivizing health and well-being."Read more
by Elana Duffy
Secretary Shulkin and his team at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) have been busy. From recent bills passed to upgrade Bad Paper Discharges to the extension of the VA Choice Program, VA is certainly not sitting still.
These were easy wins. Expanded access to mental health care, reducing mental health stigma with the re-evaluation of behavioral discharges for those diagnosed with PTSD, and extending Choice were no-brainers. That these wins were easy does not diminish their value; these programs and policies were needed victories. But they were easy upgrades, like downloading the latest smartphone operating system to improve performance: small changes with moderate impact.
So now I would like to see VA not just upgrade the operating system but rewire the network. I want them to take on a challenge that isn’t so easy, but one that attacks a root condition so time and money spent implementing yields huge results.
by Dan Gorman
I’m a combat veteran who receives medical services from the VA here in Manhattan. For a long time, I avoided going because I felt that I wasn’t injured enough to warrant care, or at least not in the same way or degree that some of our more traumatized brethren are. But after battling frequent migraines and a bad back for the last ten years, I decided to reengage and see if there were any treatments that may help.
My first impression was that, by and large, the folks at the VA do greatly care about their patients and clients. Of course there are outliers, but the overall care is there. Following that, I quickly realized that this is a large, sluggish system that is working on old models of providing services and is woefully underequipped to be responsive and flexible—two traits the veteran community deserves.Read more
by Molly Pearl
Last summer I finally came up for air. Almost two years after my husband’s cancer diagnosis, and a year after his bone marrow transplant, I waded out of the most intensive and challenging period of caregiving I ever experienced. I began to focus my care inward. I went to the doctor and actually talked about my own health. I went to the dentist. I got a massage. I slowly willed myself to stop anticipating an emergency every time my phone rang with an unfamiliar number. I began thinking about what it meant to move forward into a less intensive, yet longer-term caregiving role. “Cancer-free” does not equal a clean bill of health, and all the veteran caregivers out there will nod in understanding when I lament that a decline in physical health often exacerbates underlying depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health challenges. Many veteran caregivers finally get their heads above water only to see that dry land is farther off yet.Read more
by Kent Eiler
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise, but Congress looks likely to pass some version of the "VA Accountability and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016." The summer of 2014 saw the passage of the "Veterans Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act". That members of Congress want to pass significant veterans legislation headed into a fall election season comes as no shock but it's important for veterans advocates to look at, and evaluate, proposed legislation from an efficacy standpoint. Looking at this legislation I would share with you my own concerns about the proposed legislation. The number one concern most veterans have who appeal a VA's decision is the length of time those appeals take to wind their way through the VA's complicated adjudication system. In my view, the current proposed legislation provides no realistic plan for how the more than 450,000 pending appeals at the VA will be handled in a timely and fair fashion.
On April 21, the NYC Veterans Alliance presented testimony before the NYC Council Committee on Veterans on proposed Resolution 579-A calling on Congress to pass and the President to sign the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015. We were the only organization other than the Vietnam Veterans of America to present testimony at this hearing, and the testimony itself was followed by an informative, in-depth discussion of the toxic exposures of Vietnam, Desert Storm, and OEF/OIF veterans.Read more
Today the Executive Director of the VA’s NY Harbor Healthcare System, Martina Parauda, spoke at the Veterans Forum held at the VA’s Healthcare Center at 25 Chapel Street, Brooklyn. Several months ago, NYHHS announced that they would be potentially closing the Healthcare Facility at 25 Chapel Street; today Ms. Parauda announced that they had received approval from the VA higher-ups in Washington, DC, to proceed with a plan to close this facility as of June 30, 2016.Read more
Yesterday was the 51st Annual Queens County Council Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Queens County Council of the VFW. Ryan Graham, Commander of the Queens County Council, coordinated the event and made sure veterans citywide were invited to attend. Special thanks to Ryan for inviting NYC Veterans Alliance leaders and members.Read more
On Monday, September 21, the Manhattan VA Medical Center held its annual Community Mental Health Summit, where VA administrators sought to improve understanding and communication between the VA and service providers and veterans within the community. The event was held in Atrium A (the main conference center), and was well-attended by a large audience made up mostly of service providers from non-VA programs and nonprofits in the area. The program as a whole was informative and interactive, but left us with many questions about how much community input would go toward actual changes at the Manhattan VAMC, or whether there will be follow-up with community members about what was discussed.Read more