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Schumer proposes funding free nursing care for LI vets

Sen. Chuck Schumer announces bipartisan legislation that would

Sen. Chuck Schumer announces bipartisan legislation that would provide home health care services to any veteran with a service-connected disability rated 70 percent or more on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, in Farmingdale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Service-disabled military veterans would be able to receive free nursing care services at one of Long Island’s three state veterans homes while continuing to live at home under a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The measure would expand non-institutionalized medical options for veterans with a service-connected disability rated 70 percent or more — without being place in a nursing home.

“There’s no place like home for our Long Island veterans,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a news conference Tuesday at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Farmingdale. “This bill makes sure that it stays that way.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to reimburse state veterans homes for the cost of providing adult day health care for service-disabled veterans as well as free transportation to and from state facilities to their homes.

A 2006 law provides service-disabled veterans with free nursing care services if they reside at a state veteran home.

But adult day health care — which covers nursing treatment, nutritional and psychological assessments, physical and occupational therapy, leisure activities and referrals for outpatient physician and dental services — were not included.

“We have to do everything for our veterans and that means providing the best health care in the country,” said Schumer, who pledged to push the bill through the Senate during the lame duck session that begins Monday. “And right now critical health care services are only provided to vets who reside at a state veterans home.”

The House passed its version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), earlier this year.

Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook, said the bill will “allow our most frail and disabled veterans” to receive the care they “need and deserve.”

Michael Pascal, chairman of the Veterans Advisory Board for the Long Island State Veterans Home, said the legislation also would allow younger veterans to “access an alternative to nursing home care while receiving the care they earned through military service.”

Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader, also answered questions about President-elect Donald Trump.

He called Trump’s decision not pursue a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server “a good thing” that would allow the country to “look forward.”

Schumer said he agreed with Trump on the need for a large infrastructure bill that would put the middle class back to work. Local projects, he said, could include expanding the Long Island Rail Road service to Ronkonkoma, rehabilitating area airports, repairing tunnels and bridges and improving railroad connections between New Jersey and New York.

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