Legislation supports efforts to provide child care to veterans visiting medical centers for treatment
Congressman Brian Higgins was joined by VA Western New York Healthcare System Director Brian Stiller and local veterans to announce the introduction of a bill to improve access to child care for veterans receiving health care at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
"Our veterans have been through enough battles, getting health care shouldn't be one of them," Higgins said. "We owe it to our veterans to remove barriers to care. For many, including a growing number of women service members and grandparent caregivers, child care accommodations impact a veteran's availability and ability to keep appointments."
"We are grateful for the continued support and extra effort put forward for our veterans," said Brian Stiller, VA Western New York Healthcare System director. "Congressman Higgins and veteran advocates partnering to move forward programs that work, such as the child care program, is emblematic of that commitment. This allows us to continue it without disruption, enhancing the ability for veterans to get health care."
Today's veterans suffer physical or mental consequences of combat, including post-traumatic stress disorder, which requires regular visits to VA facilities for treatment. In a survey, VA found nearly a third of veterans were interested in child care services.
The VA Western New York Health Care Center in Buffalo was chosen as one of three sites for a pilot program offering child care to veterans visiting the hospital for appointments. The program was authorized under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. Similar sites were established at VA Medical Centers in Northport, New York, and Tacoma, Washington.
The Kids Korner pilot was originally authorized for two years and set to expire in the fall of 2013. Higgins fought to continue the program, asking congressional appropriators to include Kids Korner operations for another year in the fiscal year 2014 continuing resolution. And when the program was set to expire for a second time again last year, Higgins stood up and advocated to prevent the Kids Korner from ending on Sept. 30. Subsequently, Congress approved legislation supporting Kids Korner thought the end of 2015. Without further action, Kids Korner would again be at risk of closing this December.
The legislation, introduced by Congress members Higgins and Steve Israel this week, seeks a permanent solution to giving VA medical centers the authority to coordinate child care services for visiting veterans. Under the bill, VA administrators at every VA medical center across the country will now have the ability to use funds provided in the facility's budget to provide child care programs.
"The Buffalo Kids Korner model works," Higgins said. "It should remain open here and replicated to be offered to veterans receiving treatment at VA facilities across the country."
Interest in Kids Korner continues to grow among veterans in Western New York. In FY 2012, 857 children utilized Kids Korner. That number grew to more than 1,300 children in FY 2013 and 2014. To date, more than 4,000 children of veterans have spent time at the Buffalo VA Kids Korner.
For more information on Kids Korner at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, visit http://www.buffalo.va.gov/BUFFALO/features/Kids_Korner.asp.