The fight to expand veterans health services made a pit stop in Stony Brook before hitting Washington, D.C.
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) took to the Long Island State Veterans Home last Thursday and stood before a room filled with veterans standing to benefit from a piece of legislation he said would expand disabled veterans’ access to adult day health care. He garnered widespread support from the local level before taking the fight to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which scheduled a hearing on his bill for April 20.
“It must always be a top priority of Congress to ensure that all veterans receive the proper treatment and care they deserve after fighting for our country,” Zeldin said. “My bill, which has strong bipartisan support in Congress, with over 45 co-sponsors including the entire Long Island Congressional Delegation, is just one more way that we can expand care for veterans.”
H.R. 2460 was written to enhance care for service members who are 70 percent or more disabled from a service-connected injury, which Zeldin said often required hands-on assistance in order to complete everyday tasks. In Stony Brook, the Long Island State Veterans Home is only one of three facilities nationwide to offer a program called adult day health care, which delivers an alternative to nursing home care for disabled veterans and their families. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not cover such an expense at state veterans homes, putting a greater burden on service members’ wallets.
If passed, Zeldin said, the legislation would help expand this program, which could be offered at any of the 153 state veterans homes across the country.
Fred Sganga, director of the Long Island State Veterans Home, said the legislation would fix a harrowing disparity that disabled vets face on a daily basis.
“Since the original legislation to provide no-cost skilled nursing care to our veterans who are 70 percent or more service connected disabled was passed into law in 2006, those veterans who could possibly be served by an alternative like medical model adult day health care have been shortchanged of this wonderful opportunity,” he said. “Congressman Zeldin had the resolve to recognize this issue and bring an appropriate fix not only for the Long Island State Veterans Home, but for the other 152 state veterans homes across the country.”
Noreen Saladino, whose husband James receives adult day health care to help combat the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange while serving during the Vietnam War, said the program has given her a new life.
“My personal life changed when James entered adult day health care,” she said. “It keeps him safe and comfortable.
Dr. Kenneth Kushansky, dean at the School of Medicine and senior vice president of Health Sciences at Stony Brook University, said the congressman’s bill advocated for a critical piece of veterans health care exercised at both Stony Brook Hospital and the 350-bed Long Island State Veterans Home.
“Stony Brook Medicine wants to acknowledge Congressman Zeldin for submitting this legislation on behalf of veterans and their families,” he said. “Providing funding for a long-term care alternative, like medical model adult day health care, will give our veterans and their families much deserved choice. Stony Brook Medicine serves as a model for the rest of the nation as it relates to long-term care for our nation’s heroes, and we are proud to be a part of this initiative.”