Brooklyn VA Medical Center to remain open after Senate Veterans Affairs Committee opposes proposal to shutter center

June 28, 2022 Jaime DeJesus,
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The Brooklyn VA Medical Center is here to stay.

Back in March, there was fear that the longstanding hospital at 800 Poly Place would close after the independent Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission called on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit its proposal to the commission. It recommended closing the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Medical Centers.

However, on Tuesday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced that the AIR Commission process will not move forward.

“After months of fighting, I am pleased to announce that the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Medical Centers are staying open and right where they are,” Schumer said. “When I stood with our local vets, I promised them I would not let this plan, to rip away local treatment without consulting local leaders and no interim care plan, become a reality. I am proud to say a promise made is now a promise kept.”

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

On Tuesday, the bipartisan Senate members including the chair and members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee announced their formal opposition to the VA AIR Commission Process.

A veteran at the rally in Brooklyn VA Medical Center in March. Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

“As Senators, we share a commitment to expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to America’s veterans,” they stated. “We believe the recommendations put forth to the AIR Commission are not reflective of that goal, and would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage, which is why we are announcing that this process does not have our support and will not move forward.”

Without the approval of these members and the Senate, the commission and its nominees, no commission can be established and the process cannot move forward, signifying the end of the AIR Commission and saving the Brooklyn center.

According to the recommendations of the Veterans Administration’s AIR Commission made in March, over the next 10 years, the “Metro New York Market” enrollment is projected to decrease by 23.1 percent, suggesting the need for significantly fewer beds.

The proposal stated, “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].”

Veteran Mike Sulsona (in wheelchair), a Vietnam War vet, at a rally to save the Brooklyn VA in March. Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

“If unable to enter into a strategic collaboration, the Brooklyn VAMC will relocate care to current or future facilities or community providers: The population served by the Brooklyn VAMC is declining. Enrollment in Kings County, where Brooklyn is located, is projected to decrease by 21.7 percent, from 20,484 enrollees in FY 2019 to 16,043 enrollees in FY 2029,” the proposal said.

Rallies attended by passionate veterans and elected officials were held outside the Brooklyn VA Medical Center in March.

“It’s completely unacceptable that the Biden Administration proposed closing veteran hospitals across the country including ones right here in New York City,” said U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis following the announcement. “I’ve been working diligently with House and Senate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to stop these proposed closures and protect the services so many veterans in our community rely on.”

“The Senate’s efforts to block the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission’s recommendations is a vital first step to stop these closures, however, if the President is truly serious about expanding health care for our nation’s veterans, he should immediately announce that this proposal is dead on arrival.”

“Veterans from near and far depend on the Brooklyn VA to access a variety of health and medical services, including mental health care, emergency services and general medical appointments,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes on Tuesday. “Our brave veterans who have risked their lives and their health for our country deserve high-quality health care.”

“Our government has an obligation to provide all veterans with the physical and mental health care and benefits they were not only promised but deserve,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan. “We owe that to them. Closing these hospitals was just unconscionable and we needed to use every lever of power we had to stop these closures from happening in our backyard.”

“As someone who uses the VA and has seen firsthand the specialized care that only they can provide for veterans like me, I applaud the Senate VA committee throwing out this disastrous bureaucratic proposal that would have ripped health care away from thousands of veterans,” said former U.S. Rep. Max Rose.

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