House Republicans lining up against $207 million measure in Hurricane Sandy relief aid package to repair and reopen VA hospital on E. 23rd St.
This is another slap in the face from Congress . Was politics played when aid was needed for Katrina no I do not think so. NY delegation helped push aid packages through ASAP. Real nice they like to call themselves patriotic in the South and Midwest but when it is time to return the favor and aid people in NY/NJ they turn their backs. Wow, and now this slap in the face to American Veterans. Thanks GOP .
They served the nation, but now ailing veterans face misery if Congress nixes VA hospital funds
Manhattan's VA Hospital was swamped by Hurricane Sandy, forcing city's veterans to trek - often for hours - to VA centers in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Congress is bracing for a battle next week over $51 billion in proposed Hurricane Sandy relief aid — and some of the casualties could be the veterans who relied on the Manhattan VA Hospital.
The hospital was swamped by the storm and since then thousands of vets have been forced to trek — often for hours — to other VA centers in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Now House Republicans are reportedly lining up against a $207 million measure in the aid package to repair and reopen the hospital on E. 23rd St. — and advocates for the vets are urging them to reconsider.
"Vets can't afford to wait for their health care," Jason Hansman of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said Friday.
MARCUS SANTOS FOR THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The VA Hospital on E. 23rd St. in Manhattan has had to turn away veterans in need of care, forwarding them to other boroughs.
"It's a nightmare to get out there by public transportation," the Iraq War vet said of the Brooklyn and Bronx facilities.
"You have to go to the end of the subway line and then it's still a long walk for a veteran who's frail or sick. The last thing the VA wants is a further barrier to care."
Vets said the Manhattan VA runs shuttles to Brooklyn and the Bronx, but if a patient misses the bus they're on their own.
"They're sending me to the Bronx," said 73-year-old Army vet Ted Williams of Chelsea, who leaned on his crutch as he walked through the rain to a bus stop. "I have to get a bus to the subway, switch lines, and then get another bus. I have bad knees and a bad hip."
Vietnam vet Jose Lopez said it's "outrageous" that Congress would even consider not funding repairs to their VA hospital.
MARCUS SANTOS FOR THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Manhattan VA Hospital Director Martina Parauda hopes Congress 'will do the right thing for the veterans.'
"There are a lot of guys who need help," said Lopez, 64, who lives in the East 20s and suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. "They're sick. Now they're sick and angry."
Hospital director Martina Parauda said since the storm it has been able to provide only the barest of services to the vets who continue to show up at the hospital.
They're counting, she said, on Congress to approve the funding so Manhattan patients in need of care can get it closer to home."I have complete faith that Congress will do the right thing for the veterans," said Parauda.
Tell it to likely opponents like Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), a Tea Party-backed fiscal hawk.
"That additional amount of funding is known to have billions of dollars in taxpayer funds, which have nothing to do with helping in the recovery of Hurricane Sandy," her spokesman Thomas Doheny insisted.
Asked specifically about the Manhattan VA money, an Ellmers aide who asked not to be identified said she's "not opposed to this at all."
"But this is a long-term project that can and should be properly vetted in the veterans' appropriations process," the aide said.
Dr. Curt Dill, chief of emergency medicine at the Manhattan VA Hospital, said that kind of a delay means months of misery for ailing vets "who have organized their lives around getting their health care on E. 23rd St."
"There is probably no group that is more resilient to deal with this than the veterans," Dill said. "But many of them are in their 80s now and it's asking a lot of them to endure this any longer."
Some 1,000 to 1,200 outpatients used the hospital every day before Sandy struck and some 120 vets received in-patient care, said Dill.
And not just vets from Manhattan, said Dill. Some trekked in for specialty care services like cardiology and neurosurgery from as far away as Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Severe Sandy damage forced the hospital to turn away veterans.
Now, said Dill, these patients are being farmed out to facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx that have no room for them.
"The Brooklyn campus is very overcrowded, additional wards have been open," the doctor said. "The whole hospital is bursting at the seams. Although new staff has been hired, the Brooklyn VA is now seeing more patients than it was set up to deal with."
Back at the bus stop, Williams the Army vet said Congress owes people like him.
"They made a promise to take care of veterans after we did our duty. Why don't they do theirs?" he asked.