Southern Brooklyn

Rally scheduled to save Brooklyn VA Hospital

March 10, 2022 Jaime DeJesus
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A rally is being held outside Brooklyn VA Medical Center, 800 Poly Place, on Sunday, March 13 at 2 p.m. to help save it from potential closure.

The event is hosted by U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, as veterans and patients fear that the center will either be closed or else sustain drastically reduced services.

Malliotakis spoke to the Eagle about the potential closure. 

Last week, she received a call from the Veterans Administration, which gave her a heads-up that the agency would be releasing a list on Monday, March 14, proposing facilities nationwide that could be closed, and also proposing changes to other veterans’ clinics throughout the country.

Two of the hospitals they intend to close are in New York City, with one being the Brooklyn VA, which is also known as the Brooklyn Campus of the VA NY Harbor Healthcare System. The other is the Manhattan Campus, 423 East 23rd St., according to Malliotakis.

According to the New York Post, the VA would close those two hospitals and contract with private medical providers as part of a “strategic collaboration” to treat vets.

The article added that the VA’s proposal says it would be “discontinuing” services at the “Brooklyn campus” and instead establish a strategic collaboration with another provider to deliver inpatient medical and surgical services as well as emergency care.

“This is unacceptable to me, and the veterans I represent and we are going to fight back and ensure these facilities remain open,” Malliotakis told the Home Reporter. “The reason why I’m planning a rally for Sunday is to get in front of this issue and tell the Biden Administration that under no circumstances would we accept closures of VA facilities, particularly two hospitals that serve New York City.”

She added that in 2018, Congress passed a law that requires the VA to do a market analysis to determine where they can make changes. 

The VA is going to take about a year to review these recommendations and provide a final proposal to the president, according to Malliotakis.

“Of all people, it’s the veterans who deserve the utmost respect in the services and health they need,” she said. “A lot of veterans I represent, they’ve been concerned with lack of services as it is at the VA. It’s unacceptable.”

Another proposal would also realign the Staten Island Community VA Clinic, 1150 South Ave, with the New Jersey VA health care system. This would mean that veterans who are currently patients at the Staten Island clinic but who go to the Brooklyn VA for special services would instead have to go to New Jersey.

Many veterans are aware of the potential closure.

According to veteran Lee Covino, the VA nurses’ union was given a slide briefing by acting VA Hospital Director Bruce Tucker. The nurses shared their notes with him because he’s been involved with veterans’ affairs advocacy over the years.  

“Closing the VA in Brooklyn and changing the Staten Island clinic to mental health only is a great disservice and hardship for Staten Island veterans, many of whom are frail and elderly and in need of medical, not mental health treatment,” Covino said. 

In addition to the Community VA Clinic, Staten Island also has the non-medical VA Vet Center on Bay Street, which specializes in readjustment counseling and treating PTSD and other mental health issues. “Further, linking Staten Island to New Jersey VA facilities … is a non-starter, since many veterans here must take public transportation for services,” said Covino.

Malliotakis stressed the importance of the Brooklyn VA Hospital, since it serves more than just locals.

“I meet people from across the city there,” she said. “Many veterans come from Staten Island for specialized care in Brooklyn as well as Queens. I met veterans from every borough when I visited the VA hospital in Brooklyn, and this would be impacting a substantial number of veterans in our community. The alternative would potentially be them having to go to New Jersey for services, and that’s unacceptable.” 

Former U.S. Rep. Max Rose, a Democrat who formerly occupied Malliotakis’ seat in Congress and is now running against her to regain it, had similar concerns. 

“As a combat veteran who uses the Brooklyn VA, I know the services provided to our community are irreplaceable,” Rose said. “As a former member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I know BRAC-style [Base Realignment and Closure] proposals with no common sense like these are often thrown out. I am confident that will be the case here and will work with my fellow veterans, union staff at the hospitals, and our allies in DC to make sure that happens.”

In 2018, many people feared that the facility was closing, but then-Director of VA NY Harbor Healthcare System Martina Parauda, during a highly attended meeting, said it would remain open.

That meeting also revealed short-range plans, which included renovating the operating rooms to meet 21st century standards, ambulatory surgery suites, and a women’s health clinic.

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