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Caring for our Disabled Veterans: The Fight to Expand Adult Day Care

April 4, 2016
Press Release
Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

Supporting our nation’s veterans is an essential responsibility that we all share. Our service members repeatedly put their lives in danger to ensure our security. While overseas, these brave men and women are exposed to hardships and trauma, and when they come home, many return with the physical and mental wounds of war. Despite various care options for veterans, their choices are often limited, and can come at a great expense.

Service members who are 70% or more disabled from a service connected injury often require significant assistance from others in order to carry out basic everyday tasks. In many instances, veterans must rely on family members for assistance, creating many financial and emotional hardships. Alternatively, some veterans, without the proper support system, may even be forced to rely on the assistance of trained medical professionals and reside in institutionalized facilities for daily assistance, which also comes at a great expense. Veterans in these facilities often spend significant sums of money each day just to be enrolled, and these expenses can be expected to span the remainder of the veteran’s life in many cases. While alternative options currently exist, accessing these services, however, can often be very difficult.   

One such program that is currently available is Adult Day Health Care; a daily program for disabled veterans who need extra assistance and special attention in their day to day lives. Adult Day Health Care programs provide disabled veterans and their families with a high quality alternative to nursing home care, providing quality outpatient services for those suffering from debilitating illnesses or disabilities. These programs provide a range of services from daily activities, such as bathing, to full medical services, like physical therapy. The focus of the program is on improving disabled veterans’ quality of life through an individualized plan specific to their needs, while still allowing them to maintain their independence. Not only does Adult Day Health Care benefit the veteran, but it also benefits the family members and caregivers as well.  This model allows caregivers to tend to their day to day activities without worrying about the well-being of their spouse, child or friend. This option allows the veteran to lead a much more fulfilling life, and also helps keep families together and strong.    

Adult Day Health Care, however, is only offered currently at two facilities in the United States. Long Island is fortunate to be one of the two locations, with a facility right here in Suffolk County at Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, but this program could easily be offered at any of the 153 State Veterans Homes (SVH) across the country. Since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not currently cover the cost of participation in this program, the expense must be paid out of pocket by the veteran and their family, which significantly limits the number of veterans who can enroll. 

In an effort to address this, and expand access to care for our heroes, I recently introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress, H.R. 2460, which would ensure that 70% or more service connected disabled veterans are able to receive Adult Day Health Care at no cost to the veteran and their family by defining the program as a reimbursable treatment option through the VA. This would expand this great option of care for our veterans.

It must be a top priority of Congress to ensure that all veterans on Long Island and across the country receive the proper treatment and care they deserve. My bill, which has strong bipartisan support in Congress, with over 45 cosponsors including the entire Long Island Congressional Delegation, is just one more way that we can expand care for veterans. These brave men and women left the comforts of home to serve this nation and fight for our freedoms. 

Congressman Lee Zeldin, an Army veteran who continues to serve today as a Major in the Army Reserves, represents the First Congressional District of New York. In Congress, two of Rep. Zeldin’s committee assignments are Veterans Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

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