Child care center removes a barrier to accessing services
Congressman Brian Higgins, VA WNY Healthcare System Director Brian Stiller, and local veterans announced legislation keeping Kids Korner open, H.R. 5404, the Extending Veterans Expiring Authorities Act, has crossed its final legislative hurdle ensuring the services will be available through 2015.
The doors to Kids Korner would have closed Oct. 1 without this action.
Kids Korner, a center that provides free child care services to veterans while attending appointments at the Buffalo VA, was slated to close Sept. 30 due to lack of continued funding. Local veterans petitioned to keep the child care center open. Higgins wrote to the House Appropriations Committee this September calling for continued funding for Kids Korner and urged passage of H.R. 5404.
"America's military personnel have placed their lives on the line for our freedom, and we must ensure that accessing services isn't a battle when they return," Higgins said. "This on-site child care center reduces a barrier many of our veterans with young families face, and allows for flexibility in scheduling necessary appointments."
"This is an important program for Buffalo veterans and their families," said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Many of our men and women who served in the military need counseling and health services and help when they return home. This program helps our veterans receive the services they earned and deserve by providing child care during their appointments. This VA program has been incredibly successful in Buffalo and should remain available here, and expanded throughout the country."
Kids Korner is one of three child care programs at Veterans Administrations across the country. The other two are located in Puget Sound, Washington, and Northport, New York. The program, started in 2011, provides free, drop-in child care services for eligible veterans waiting for appointments.
"On behalf of my family and veterans, we are very grateful to those who assisted us on keeping Kids Korner open for another year so that we have less things to worry about while attending to our medical needs," said Matejka Baumgardner, commander of Kubik Galloway VFW Post and mother of twin infants. She utilizes Kids Korner services. "The community response was quicker than I expected. It shows an immediate need to keep this program going so we will continue or work to make Kids Korner a permanent location at the VA."
Need for the Kids Korner services continues to grow, including use among grandparent caregivers. In 2012, the Kids Korner facility in Buffalo saw 857 children, ages 6 weeks to 12 years old. Last year, Kids Korner served 1,397 children. This fiscal year, the site has already provided childcare to 1,228 children. In August, 228 children were served - the highest number to date. A recent survey conducted at the Buffalo found that 100 percent of veterans were satisfied with the care provided through the program.
H.R. 5405 also extends coverage of nursing homecare provided to veterans with service-connected disabilities of 70 percent or higher. Furthermore, the bill authorizes an additional $2 million toward a pilot program for counseling services at retreats for retired female veterans.
The bill passed in the House of Representatives Sept. 16, was approved by the U.S. Senate Sept. 18, and signed by President Obama Sept. 26.