Southern Brooklyn

Max Rose, staffers and union reps rally to save Brooklyn VA Med Center

March 24, 2022 Jaime DeJesus
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His Rival, Rep. Malliotakis, Held Her Own Rally on March 13

Another rally was held to save the endangered Brooklyn VA Medical Center, 800 Poly Place on Thursday, March 24.

The gathering was held outside the facility. It was hosted by former U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who is running for the same seat he held before losing to incumbent Nicole Malliotakis in 2020. 

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Representatives of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) attended Thursday’s rally, along with local veterans and staff members at the VA Medical Center, many of whom belong to the union. According to its site, the AFGE is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 government workers nationwide and overseas. 

Malliotakis hosted her own rally to save the facility on March 13, along with a group of veterans.

At his own rally, Rose, a combat veteran, said that the fight to save the facility is personally important to him, since he’s a patient at the Bay Ridge-area Brooklyn center.

“I come here once a week,” he said. “What I found in D.C., and why so many of us don’t trust politicians in general, is there is a massive disconnect between what some bureaucrat is deciding and the devastating impact it can have on our community. They pass down these recommendations, edicts that lack common sense or compassion or understanding of facts on the ground.”

According to the recommendations of the Veterans Administration’s Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, made public earlier this month, during the next 10 years, “Metro New York Market” enrollment in the VA medical system is projected to decrease by 23.1 percent. This would suggest the need for fewer beds.

The proposal recommends “establishing a strategic collaboration to provide inpatient medical and surgical, outpatient surgical, and emergency department services and discontinuing these services at the Brooklyn VAMC [Veterans Affairs Medical Center].”

Commenting on this, Rose said, “This proposal by this commission is just a latest addition of this idiocy, this ignorance and this absence of any real feeling and commitment to veterans. We got all these folks that say on Veterans Day, ‘Thank you for your service.’ If you really want to thank us veterans, the incredible public servants who serve veterans each and every day at this facility and others, the way to do that is to keep this facility open.”

AFGE District 2 National Vice President David Gonzalez, a veteran himself, traveled from Washington D.C. to address the rally. “This is not a photo op,” he said. “This is real life, and veterans deserve more. If a  president gets ill, he goes to a VA facility [the Walter Reed National Medical Center]. So if he can get health care at a VA facility, then why can’t our veterans get the same treatment as the president of the United States?”  

He added that the event was not political, but is about the men and women who fight and those who take care of veterans.

“Back in the day, they built these buildings to last forever, and now you’re going to tell me [there are] issues with infrastructure?” asked Cheryl Jones, president of AFGE Local 862 at the hospital. “I call BS. Save our VA.”

The level of care that health care workers give to patients at the facility was heavily touched on during the rally.

Max Rose hosts a rally on Thursday with members of The American Federation of Government Employees to save the Brooklyn VA Medical Center.

“I’ve been in this VA for 33 years taking care of patients proudly, and I love my staff and my VA. I urge the commission not to close it because we need it so badly,” said Susana Scott, president of AFGE Local 1667, also based at the hospital. “We have so many patients, and they are in love with us because we take good care of them. Please save it.”

“We can’t close our VA,” added AFGE coordinator and activist Vanessa Barrow. “It is proven that the VAs give our veterans better care. We want D.C. not to pass the AIR [Asset and Infrastructure Review] Commission report. We want them to fix the VA’s and provide adequate funding, staffing. We have to have adequate staffing.”

Timothy McLaughlin, a national representative for AFGE District 2, said the VA hospitals know how to care for veterans.

“They’re not in it for the money,” he said. “They’re in it for the cause and they’re the professionals. These for-profit private hospitals don’t have the expertise to take care of veterans like the VA does. That knowledge has been compounded over decades.”

Rose stressed that during the height of the pandemic, the VA opened itself to all New Yorkers.

“And now they want to close hospital beds after a pandemic,” he said. “What are they thinking?  Truth of the matter is they’re not thinking.”

Also attending the rally were Councilmember Justin Brannan and State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, both of whom represent the area. 

Brannan said, “The hospital here has also long stood as a symbol of our community’s collective gratitude for and commitment to our service members. I am and always will be proud to say the Brooklyn VA should stay, and we should only be building up its capacity—not tearing the whole thing down.”

“Veterans from all across Southern Brooklyn rely on the Brooklyn VA hospital for crucial care, and the proposed closure to this hospital is a disgrace,” said Gounardes. “I stand with the healthcare heroes of AFGE in saying we can’t play games with their jobs and facilities.”

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