Long Island, NY - May 17, 2018 - On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) gave the following testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on behalf of Suffolk County’s over 83,000 veterans and the hurdles they face when accessing the care they have earned:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee on Veterans Affairs, and thank you for the great work you all do on behalf of our nation’s veterans.
While, to date, we have made significant improvements to VA healthcare, I would like to use this time to discuss just some of the many areas where Congress and this committee could take further action.
Expanding access to essential services, both inside and outside the VA system, as well as providing robust funding to address the VA’s aging infrastructure needs must be considered a top priority in order to improve the overall patient experience for our brave service men and women.
I would also like to take a moment to thank the committee for its support in advancing critical legislation which will benefit hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country. With the support of this committee, this year, my legislation to provide no-cost Adult Day Health Care to 70% or more service connected disabled veterans was signed into law.
In my home district in Suffolk County, the Long Island State Veterans Home serves 80 veterans through their Adult Day Health Care Program and since the enactment of this legislation, even more veterans have been able to sign up for this critical care.
One of the statistics that concerns me most is that each and every day, 22 veterans take their own life. We must do more to improve access and quality of mental health services that are offered to our nation’s service men and women.
In New York, a program I created as a State Senator, the PFC Joseph Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Project, leverages the military cultural values of trust, respect, perseverance and self-reliance to provide opportunities for healthy reintegration through interaction with other veteran peers in a setting that is confidential and anonymous, while ensuring access to program resources regardless of discharge status.
This peer support model works and is saving countless lives. Since its inception, the program has spread to over a dozen counties across New York State, and my bill, H.R. 897 would use the successful model employed by the Dwyer Project on a national scale allowing veterans across the country to benefit from this proven model.
With the highest population of veterans by county in New York State, and one of the highest in the entire country, there is a significant need for systematic infrastructure upgrades to Long Island's Veteran Hospital - the Northport VA Medical Center.
This 90 year old facility has experienced a significant strain in providing the majority of medical services to Suffolk County’s over 83,000 veterans. While Congress has acted to provide the VA with necessary funding to address these construction, demolition and infrastructure issues, several projects remain in limbo due to the sheer volume of issues that must be addressed throughout the system. We must ensure that the VA follows through on its promise to deliver a higher quality of care by updating and modernizing each facility across the nation.
In coordination with addressing these issues to ensure Northport can provide the best service, providing increased access to care outside of a VA medical center must remain a top priority as well, including access to telemedicine and CBOCs.
It’s been encouraging to see all of the great work this committee and Congress has accomplished when it comes to reforming the bureaucracy that has hindered our nation's veterans across the country. I look forward to working with each and every one of you. I thank the Chair for the opportunity, and I yield back.”