U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi denounced the surprise news Wednesday that the Veterans Administration is considering significant changes at the VA Medical Center in Northport.
The Northport Observer first reported last week that the VA was considering such changes as closing the center’s emergency room and sending other services off-campus to other locations.
It was the surprise nature of changes, outlined in a report by the Veterans Administration, that most perturbed Suozzi and veterans’ organizations.
“I was completed blindsided,” Suozzi said. “It was dropped into the middle of our laps. The bottom line is that the first rule of government is to never forget the vet.” He said he didn’t believe that the proposals, that include scatter veterans’ care to St. Alban’s, Queens, Connecticut and Commack, was meant to harm their care. “I’m sure there is no malicious intent,” he said. “But it’s such a shock to myself, veterans and colleagues.”
He said veterans and their families shouldn’t worry, and that it would take at least a year of hearings before any changes could be made. “I’m in favor of collaboration. I am not in favor of Washington bureaucrats making plans and not discussing with us first. How you roll things out is essential part of the community. Don’t panic, nothing’s happening tomorrow. We’re going to fight for the Northport VA.”
“I’ve worked very hard to bring in millions to rebuild the emergency room, and they’re talking about doing away with the ER,” Suozzi said. “I’m very concerned in talking with veterans and organizations, who are being surprised by the report. The good news is it will take a year
before any changes could be made, Suozzi added. “We will make sure veterans are represented.”
Bob Santo, finance officer for American Legion Post 1244 in Greenlawn, said, that politicians and the VA should not assume that Suffolk County’s veterans population, still the highest in New York State, will continue to decline as veterans age out.
“I think it’s extremely premature to be planning something like that over the longterm when we know we will be needing those services again. it doesn’t seem to be well thought through. I think it’s going to be dead on arrival,” Santo said.