Possible Closings Of VA Hospitals #1 Topic On Veterans’ Day
The possible closing of the veterans’ hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn was on everyone’s mind this Veterans’ Day, it seems, as public officials offered comments at the Fifth Avenue parade last week and the VA head touched on the same subject in Washington.
United States Senator Charles Schumer, who has been fighting the closings along with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (both D–New York), and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) declared the hospitals must not be shut down.
Schumer said of the Manhattan facility on East 23rd Street, “As we speak here on Veterans’ Day, there’s an attempt to close it down. I say never,” he vowed.
Maloney declared that veterans deserve the best health care. “That is why I’m fighting to make sure that our great 23rd Street vet hospital, the best in the country, remains open.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also pledged to fight to keep the Manhattan facility open.
In Washington, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson warned that the high number of Iraq vets requiring major treatment is an important factor in the proposed closing of either the Manhattan or Brooklyn hospitals.
Meanwhile, the agency this year will provide health care to 5.2 million patients, disability pay to 2.7 million and survivors benefits to nearly 350,000, Nicholson said. He said the VA’s budget has increased by 50 percent, to $70 billion, since President George W. Bush took office.
GIOIA LISTS VETERANS’ BENEFITS: On the occasion of Veterans’ Day last Friday City Councilmember Eric Gioia (D–Long Island City) issued a long list of benefits for veterans that some may not know exist. Titled “Know Your Benefits,” the list includes advice ranging from how to start a small business to job assistance programs to property tax exemptions. Examples include:
•Home loans. Veterans can receive low-interest home loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs up to $60,000 to help finance the purchase of a new home.
•Starting a small business. Service members and vets can take courses to learn how to start a small business and are also eligible for services such as loan guarantees, venture capital assistance and government contracting assistance. Individual courses specifically approved for Veteran Administration purposes will be covered by veterans’ benefits.
•Tuition assistance. The New York State Higher Education Service Corporation Veterans Tuition Awards (VTA) provides up to $1,000 per semester for full-time study or $500 per semester for part time study to eligible veterans in college, graduate school or in an approved vocational training program in New York state.
•Property tax examptions. The Veterans Exemption provides property tax relief to qualified veterans in recognition of their service to country and community.
•Job assistance. Programs such as Helmets to Hardhats, sponsored by labor unions and the construction industry, place military members in construction jobs.
•Health benefits for women vets. Some important gender-specific services and benefits are available for women veterans, including breast and pelvic examinations and other general reproductive healthcare services, contraceptive services, menopause management, Pap smears and mammography.
•Travel to VA medical facilities. Certain veterans may be eligible for reimbursement for travel costs incurred in receiving medical care. The VA may also provide reimbursement of payment for medical care provided to enrolled veterans for non-VA facilities in cases of emergency.
For more information or to apply for any of these benefits, contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000, www.va.gov or the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs at 1-888-VETS NYS, www.veterans.state.ny.us.
FLU SHOTS IN BAYSIDE: Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D–Bayside) reports that Community Board 11 and St. Mary’s Hospital for Children at 29-01 216th St., Bayside have teamed up to offer free flu shots.
Those eligible are anyone in a high risk category such as individuals aged 50 or older, children over 6 months with a chronic illness, all children 6 to 23 months of age, women who will be pregnant during the flu season, children 6 months to 18 years of age receiving aspirin therapy and individuals who live with or care for anyone in the above categories.
Appointments to get the shots are mandatory and can be made by contacting Board 11 at 718-225-1054. Free parking is available on the hospital grounds. The vaccine, provided by the New York City Department of Health, will be administered by nurses from St. Mary’s Hospital.