Following push for Agent Orange benefits and state veterans cemetery, Brindisi takes concerns of local veterans directly to VA Secretary
Congressman Anthony Brindisi, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, pressed Veterans Administration Secretary Robert Wilkie, Dr. Richard Stone of the Veterans Health Administration and other top VA officials about their work to address the priorities of Upstate veterans. Brindisi questioned witnesses about the lack of health benefits for veterans affected by Agent Orange exposure, the creation of a state veterans cemetery in New York and the need for better access to VA services for rural veterans.
“We have more than 50,000 Veterans in our area who deserve to receive all of the benefits they earned by serving our country,” said Brindisi. “We had a positive discussion with Secretary Wilkie and Dr. Stone about the concerns of Upstate veterans. We’ll keep pushing for a budget that supports our plans for a state veterans cemetery in Oneida County, increases funding for state veteran homes and allows veterans in small towns to receive services at locations like the Bainbridge VA clinic.”
Continuing his fight to locate New York’s first state veterans cemetery in Oneida County, Brindisi questioned Wilkie about the VA’s ability to support New York’s plan to establish the cemetery. Earlier in February, VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves visited New York’s 22nd District at Brindisi’s invitation for a summit to discuss the cemetery.
New York is one of only a few states that does not have a state veterans cemetery.
When Brindisi pointed out the extent to which Upstate veterans were underserved, Wilkie agreed.
“You’re right that many veterans experience a gaping hole in service,” said Wilkie.
Brindisi also asked the witnesses about addressing the backlog of grant requests for state veteran homes and expanding access to VA health services in rural areas. Last year, Brindisi secured key language in a government funding bill to protect the Bainbridge VA clinic from closure. Brindisi, a champion for rural veterans, inserted a provision requiring the VA to conduct a market area assessment before taking action on Bainbridge. Brindisi hosted Dr. Stone at the Bainbridge clinic in November.
Last year, President Donald J. Trump signed two Brindisi bills supporting veterans: Brindisi’s Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2019 and his Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act.