Lawmakers call for investigation into closure of Adult Day Health Care program

Posted at 2:01 PM, Aug 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-29 21:27:30-04

Two congressional lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the way the VA is handling the closure of an adult day care program for veterans.

Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins say they're concerned the VA may have violated patient privacy laws by releasing the veterans personal medical information to a private company soliciting business from veterans.

The VA's Adult Day Health Care is a popular program for veterans with Alzheimer's, dementia and other impairments. For six-hours a day, twice a week, those veterans receive physical therapy and therapeutic exercise, participate in recreational activities like trivia and singing, receive health education and medication management and share meals. The veterans say they rely on the program for the social, physical and mental enrichment it provides, and family members and caregivers say they rely on the support system.

In July, the Amherst facility told its participants it would be ending services by October 1st because the building that houses the program is set to be demolished. VA officials told participants they would be working with them to help them transition to new programs that offer similar services. Sen. Schumer and Rep. Higgins say that in their haste to make those transitions happen, the VA may have shared the veteran's private medical information.

Sen. Schumer and Rep. Higgins further argue that the Buffalo VA’s decision to privatize this care for our veterans does not save costs or improve care. 

Sen. Schumer and Rep. Higgins say they've spent weeks speaking with local veterans and families affected by the decision to close the Adult Day Health Care program, and they say they've repeatedly urged the leadership of the Buffalo VA to reverse their decision.

Senator Schumer also wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie extolling the great services provided at the Western New York ADHC and calling for the program to continue. 

Congressman Higgins has asked VA Regional Director Dr. Joan McInerney to intervene and reverse the decision.

Senator Schumer and Congressman Higgins also co-authored a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights on behalf of local veterans and the Adult Day Health Care program.

The VA Western New York Healthcare System released this statement:

"This decision will allow VA to serve up to twice as many Veterans with existing resources, and give Veterans and their families more choice over their health care.
To date, 83 percent of the Veterans enrolled in this program have selected locations to receive adult day health care close to home at VA expense, and VA Western New York Healthcare System is continuing to work with Veterans and their families to transition them to community providers.
VA will adjust services and staffing through the month of September as Veterans enroll with community providers to ensure no Veteran is left without services.
VA is reviewing the offer by WS Development to extend a short-term lease. Given that estimates for comparable space in the greater Buffalo market continue to increase, the decision to transition these services to community providers is a more responsible use of resources, allowing more veterans to be served in the long term.
VA Western New York Healthcare System is looking in to the privacy concerns identified and will take appropriate action.  Appropriate medical information is shared with prospective contractors only when a Veteran expresses interest in applying to that program, as is standard practice with medical referrals. "

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