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“Providing Only the Highest Quality of Care at our VA Medical Centers Across America”

September 5, 2016
Press Release
Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

Since our nation’s founding, America has been blessed with brave men and women who have answered the call to serve to protect and defend our freedom. In return, President Lincoln once remarked, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Unfortunately, as we have recently seen with too many examples throughout our nation, much more work remains to be done.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in recent years has been plagued with many challenges nationwide, ranging from secret wait lists, overmedicating patients, falsifying records, abusing the Relocation and Incentive Bonus program and massive budgetary overruns. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 22 veterans per day take their own life, which is so completely unacceptable and avoidable. At the Philadelphia VA, over 30,000 calls placed by veterans to that medical center were not responded to for hundreds of days. The lack of accountability and corrective action have caused the problems to multiply.

In May of this year, media reported that the operating rooms of the Northport VA, which serve veterans all across Long Island, had been closed since February due to issues with an outdated HVAC system. Over the past few months, since this news first broke, my office has been contacted by several Long Islanders regarding serious allegations about the Northport VA. Upon review of these complaints from veterans, whistleblowers and other stakeholders, my office shared this information with the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in order to conduct a full and fair review of the information at hand. Through the years, I have received a very wide range of feedback regarding service at the Northport VA, including many who have provided nothing but the highest level of praise for the treatment and care they have received there. With that being said, any and all allegations regarding the care of our nation’s veterans must be taken very seriously, and as such, I took immediate steps to involve the appropriate parties to review these troubling allegations. As a result of these allegations, the committee will be holding a field hearing on September 20, 2016 here on Long Island to see first-hand what must be done to better care for our veterans. Congress’ investigation will continue until all the facts are in hand, and we have ensured that all Long Island veterans are receiving the appropriate care and respect that they have earned and deserve.

While I believe that almost all VA employees genuinely and deeply care about the work they do for our nation’s veterans, we must always ensure that those who don’t either correct their poor performance or are replaced. Additionally, it is especially important that technology and other systems in place are operating as efficiently as possible and infrastructure does not fall into a failing state of disrepair. Our veterans deserve to settle for nothing less.

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, Rep. Zeldin serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. His district encompasses most of Suffolk County, which has the highest concentration of veterans in New York State, and second highest concentration of veterans in all counties across the country.