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.
Ms. Parauda emphasized that veteran healthcare was the top priority of NYHHS that informed this decision to close the facility. Decreased patient usage of this facility, combined with the $7 million budget shortfall that NYHHS still needs to close before September 30th, in addition to the 40% increase demanded by the building’s current landlord—were each key factors in this decision. The last patient appointments at 25 Chapel will be scheduled for May 25th, and the month of June will be spent on closing the facility and transitioning patients to primary healthcare at the Manhattan and Brooklyn VAMCs. The Brooklyn Vet Center will remain at 25 Chapel until further notice, and a shuttle service will be maintained after the facility’s closure for patients needing transportation to VAMCs from 25 Chapel. A NYHHS social worker will be placed at the Brooklyn Vet Center to facilitate patient care for veterans seeking services at 25 Chapel Street.
Congressman Jeffries has been notified of the facility closure, as have Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. City Council Member Steven Levin was also notified, and a community liaison from his office was present at the Forum. The Forum was also attended by veteran patients of the facility, providers from both the Healthcare Center and the Vet Center, and the NYC Veterans Alliance.
Some patients at the Forum expressed concerns that they would not be well received at the Manhattan VAMC, and that community space at the Clubhouse wouldn’t be freely available to them as the 25 Chapel Street community space currently is—the Manhattan VAMC Clubhouse space is only for patients enrolled in mental health services there. Patients also had the concerns that a large portion of the 25 Chapel Street clientele are homeless and recently homeless veterans, and many rely on meals in the cafeteria that they would not otherwise be able to afford. One patient stated that the facility closure “will put veterans back out on the streets.” Another patient countered this, saying that he’d noticed a dwindling patient population over the years he’d received care there, and that “nothing lasts forever.”
If you are receiving care at the 25 Chapel Street Healthcare Center, please ask your provider about how you can best transition care to another facility. Please also let your patient advocates know what your concerns are about transitioning, and let them help you.
We do not endorse this closure; it is truly disappointing to see that the VA does not have better options for serving the veterans who have relied on the 25 Chapel Street facility for many years now. Veterans in North Brooklyn should have local access to VA medical services, and not be pushed to rely on the Manhattan VAMC—which still hasn’t fully recovered from its closure and displacement following Hurricane Sandy, and that we still hear is problematic for many veteran patients. Congress has been expecting the VA to do more with less funding, and this certainly hasn’t at all kept up with skyrocketing rental costs in the areas where veterans most need the VA to stay and provide services.
We will attempt to learn more and keep you updated on any further information we learn.