Veterans fight to stop Manhattan Medical Center from closing

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KIPS BAY, Manhattan (PIX11) – The VA Medical Center on E. 23rd Street provides medical services to veterans, but it also does much more; he gave a home to U.S. Army veteran Darryn Lubonsky.

“Eight years ago I was homeless,” Lubonsky said. “They found me an apartment. If they shut this down, where are we going? What are we going to do? Homeless veterans get good service here.

Lubonsky is being treated for his PTSD in hospital and is also receiving acupuncture treatment.

Jacque Simon, director of policy at the American Federation of Government Employees, says the Manhattan location is among hundreds of other VA clinics and medical centers across the country that are at risk of closure. Simon was joined by veterans and employees outside the VA on Monday afternoon.

“We’re trying to protest the so-called AIR commission here, which is a shut-down commission that’s trying to dismantle veterans’ health care and privatize it across the country,” Simon said.

The privatization falls under the Mission Act, which was signed into law in 2018 by former President Donald Trump. Supporters say it was intended to give veterans more health care options, but protesting veterans say they are happy with the care they are currently receiving from the VA.

Dawn Jemine-Garcia is a respiratory therapist on the Manhattan campus.

“Once that closes, they’ll be so lost in the private sector system,” Jemine-Garcia said. “They will only be a number. Here is a name. It’s Mr. Jones. These are Mrs. Rodriguez.

The Mission Act requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct service market assessments and find ways to reduce costs.

“A commission will study these recommendations and Congress will have a very, very short window to vote on them or reject them if the President decides to send these recommendations to Congress,” Simon added.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was also at the VA on Monday and does not support closing the facilities.

“We should take care of our heroes and heroines,” Maloney said. “We shouldn’t cut services for them.”

With high rates of homelessness and suicide among veterans, they fear those statistics will rise if the shutdowns continue.

PIX11 News has contacted the Manhattan VA for a statement and the medical center’s acting director, Bruce Tucker, said:

“These are market valuation recommendations, all recommendations to the next air commission are just that: recommendations. Veterans’ access to care does not change now. Any potential changes to va depend on the decisions of the commission, the president and Congress. Veterans will always be at the center of what we do.

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