Saturday, June 25

Proposed Northport VA Cuts a Non-Starter for Many Long Island Veterans


Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin.
For nearly a century, our nation’s heroes on Long Island have relied on the Northport VA Medical Center (VAMC) for their medical needs ranging from primary care to surgical procedures to mental health services and more. While there is certainly room for improvement and modernization, Northport VAMC is critical to ensuring that our communities’ veterans have reliable access to high quality medical care.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issued a report last month that recommends cuts and relocation of certain services offered at the Northport VAMC. These proposed changes include downsizing and reorganizing Northport VAMC to become a subacute care facility, moving inpatient medical/surgical procedures from Northport VAMC to community facilities, such as Stony Brook and Winthrop, and transitioning other services from Northport VAMC to the St. Albans VAMC in Queens and community partners.
These proposed cuts at Northport VAMC could turn upside down the way Long Island veterans receive medical care, which is why I reached out to veterans throughout the First Congressional District to gain a broader picture of how these changes could impact their lives.
Their responses were eye opening. Many of these veterans receive all their medical treatments at the Northport VA and have built a comfort and trust with the doctors, nurses and staff that dates back years, and in some cases, decades.
Theodore, a disabled veteran from Port Jefferson Station, visits the Northport VA for primary care, nutrition, endocrinology and rheumatology. He has a relationship with some of his doctors dating back to 1992 and is extremely grateful to the team at Northport for helping him cut his A1C levels nearly in half.
Kenneth of East Patchogue also detailed how he goes to Northport for all his medical needs and the challenges he could face if that is no longer an option. “The Northport facility is basically a one stop shop. Therefore, everything I need is right there and can be taken care of with one trip. If I have to go to multiple locations it becomes an inconvenience. If I need X-rays or bloodwork, I may have to schedule those items at other locations and that poses not just an imposition with multiple visits, but then it might take additional time/days for results and then additional days for another doctor appointment for medicine or consultation,” he wrote.
Patrick from Selden shared a similar sentiment. He is concerned that as the veteran population on Long Island, especially Vietnam veterans who have relied on Northport VA for decades, continues to age, their voices are not being reflected in these proposed changes.
We should always be looking for new ways to ensure that America’s veterans have access to the highest quality healthcare possible. However, it is increasingly clear that these drastic changes to the Northport VAMC could cause serious complications for veterans who have grown accustomed to and comfortable with relying on the Northport VA for all their medical needs.
As they have stated firsthand, veterans across Long Island rely on the Northport VA and its array of healthcare services to survive and thrive. Cutting off essential services, without convenient and reliable replacements, would be devastating to the people who have been willing to sacrifice everything on behalf of our nation. I will do everything in my power to prevent this from happening.
In conjunction with our large veterans community on Long Island, including members of my Veterans Advisory Board, we will work together to determine the best path forward. Access to care for Long Island veterans cannot be eroded in any way, shape or form, and that is something I will make 100 percent clear to the federal government and do everything in my power to prevent.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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