NY Sen. Chuck Schumer ensures VA hospitals in NYC and Hudson Valley remain open

Two Veterans Affairs hospitals in New York City that were left on life support under a proposal to a downsizing commission are now set to stay open after Senate leaders said they intend to scrap the commission.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had fought for the future of the medical centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn, celebrated the expected demise of the so-called AIR Commission.

“We must invest further in bolstering our veteran health care facilities, not strip them away, and the previous plan missed the mark in ensuring the needs of our local vets came first,” Schumer said in a Tuesday statement.

Schumer had joined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in pushing against the commission’s recommendations, which also threatened a Veterans Affairs hospital in the Hudson Valley.

Under plans released in March by the Veterans Affairs Department, hospitals in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Wappingers Falls would close, part of a national modernization project for Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Over the past few months, Schumer appealed to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, about the issue, according to the majority leader’s office.

On Monday, Tester issued a statement with 11 colleagues expressing opposition to the AIR Commission’s work.

The statement said the proposal did not reflect the goal of “expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure” and “would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage.”

The bipartisan group of senators said in their statement that the commission’s work “does not have our support and will not move forward.”

The AIR Commission was created after the 2018 passage of the Mission Act, which was signed by President Donald Trump and required the Veterans Affairs Department to examine ways to modernize health care services for veterans.

The law was aimed at increasing veterans’ access to health care outside the Veteran Affairs system. The rollout of the plan has proved rocky, and placed traditional options for veterans in the crosshairs.

But Angelo Roefaro, a spokesman for Schumer, said Thursday that the notion of closing the Manhattan and Brooklyn Veterans Affairs hospitals is “ding-dong dead.”

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