BUFFALO, NY – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) held a news conference Wednesday afternoon, at which time he announced the launch of an effort to clear what Schumer's office describes as a long backlog of requests for life-saving medical equipment at Buffalo's VA Hospital.
Schumer's announcement comes after several investigative reports on delays in veteran care by WGRZ-TV's Steve Brown, and several national reports regarding delays experienced by veterans in receiving health care.
Part of the problem that exists locally, according to Schumer, is that doctors and patients at the Buffalo VA have had to wait too long to receive at least nine pieces of important equipment, which in some cases, had been ordered more than two years ago.
"The problem is not our local hospital's fault," said Schumer.
It is instead, he insists, a problem with a system, which requires all VA hospitals to make major equipment purchases through a single National Acquisition Center, which Schumer describes as a bureaucratic nightmare, so overwhelmed with requests, that it's taking years to approve purchases.
Schumer urged the new administration coming in to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make wholesale changes to its equipment procurement process.
Following Schumer's news conference, the Buffalo VA Hospital released the following statement.:
"We appreciate the support of Senator Schumer in helping our mission to care for Veterans. VA Western New York Healthcare System reviews equipment requests based on need and urgency for replacement of and procurement of new equipment within available funding. High tech, high cost medical equipment over $50,000 is sent to the National Acquisition Center in Hines IL for purchase. Some items may require construction to prepare an area for the equipment. If at any time a service or diagnostic test is not available within VA, we refer Veterans to the local community."
Schumer was joined in his remarks at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park by representatives from several veterans advocacy groups.
They included Roger L. Woodworth, President & CEO of Veterans One-stop Center of WNY, Inc; Patrick W. Welch, PhD, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), President of VetsHERD, Inc.; and Kathleen Garvey, Ret. US Army, Chair of the Board of WNY Veterans Housing Coalition.