The man who is temporarily directing veterans health facilities on Long Island is a 31-year employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs whose father was cared for in a VA hospital before he died.
Vincent F. Immiti said watching caregivers in Brooklyn treat his father as he was dying of cancer in 2012 helped solidify his belief in VA health care.
“How much that moment meant to myself and my mother validated what this organization is all about,” said Immiti, whose career with the VA began as a respiratory therapist at the Manhattan facility in 1983. “We can talk about programs and budgets all day long, but what it’s all about is the caregiving.”
Immiti completed his first month as interim director of the VA Medical Center in Northport. His post became effective April 3.
The Northport VA oversees health care for some 32,000 veterans on Long Island. It also administers clinics in Valley Stream, East Meadow, Bay Shore, Patchogue and Riverhead.
Immiti had been director of the VA’s New Jersey Health Care System for only three months when he was asked to fill in at Northport by Dr. Joan McInerney, the VA’s health care director for the New York-New Jersey region.
He had only taken the helm at the New Jersey system, which is responsible for two medical centers and 10 community clinics, on Jan. 1. He said he expects to return to that position when the VA names a permanent Northport director, a process that usually takes several months.
In April, Immiti invited representatives of veterans advocates to speak with him after his arrival.
“I’ve met with him and was encouraged by his openness and willingness to work closely with us in serving veterans,” said Tom Ronayne, director of the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency.
After the meeting, Immiti told Newsday that an immediate concern is balancing Northport’s budget.
“We’re looking at areas where we can save money while providing care,” Immiti said, noting that staff overtime is a concern. “It becomes a question of better managing our staff.”
He said he hopes to also initiate programs on local college campuses, providing veterans who also are students access to health-care professionals without having to travel to a VA clinic.
From 2009 to 2016, Immiti was associate director at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center, a 300-bed facility in the Bronx whose Spinal Cord Damage Research Center helped perfect a mechanical exoskeleton that allows paraplegics to walk on their own.
Among other budgetary responsibilities there, Immiti oversaw construction planning that added a tomography diagnostic imager to the facility, and boosted its CT scan and MRI capacities.
He arrived at Northport as the VA has entered an uncertain period nationally.
Terri Tanielian, a veterans health policy analyst for the Rand Corp., said medical center directors must deal with uncertainties presented by a new administration in Washington, talk of privatizing parts of VA health care, a hiring freeze on federal workers, and changes in the Affordable Care Act that could push more veterans into the VA system, stretching resources.
Immiti, 58, lives in his native Staten Island.
“I’m not coming here to change everything,” he said. “I’m here to help keep it growing. And to help prepare for the next director.”