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Veterans Raise Concerns Since Manhattan VA Hospital Is Closed Indefinitely

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While some hospitals damaged in Sandy have timetables for reopening, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Manhattan does not, which is raising flags among advocates for veterans, who say they need more information about where to receive care. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

As the East River crested at the height of Hurricane Sandy, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Manhattan sustained severe flooding in its basement. The electrical systems were destroyed by salt water and by Thursday there was still no running water.

As a result, the facility is closed indefinitely.

"Unfortunately I don't have a timeline right now. We've just gotten an elevator back-up," said Martina Parauda of VA NY Harbor Healthcare System. "We have some power on with an emergency generator that was brought in from our Providence VA facility, but we still have a long way to go to be operational for veterans."

The hospital was built in 1954, and served 20,000 veterans before being shuttered. Veterans are currently receiving care at other hospitals, including one in the Bronx and another in Brooklyn. The latter clinic is difficult to reach via public transportation.

Jason Hansman, the senior program manager at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says his members rely on the Manhattan facility and would like more information.

"That concerns us. Certainly we want to know, so we can communicate to our members or anyone who uses the VA what the timetable is and when they can expect to have full service back," said Hansman. "Not having that is kind of a yellow flag for us and we are concerned."

According to Hansman, some veterans are immobile, making travel more daunting.

Also, many recent veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), making it difficult to receive care somewhere else, especially if that veteran has difficulty with crowds.

Assemblyman Michael DenDekker of Queens, who sits on the veterans affairs committee in the state Assembly, said these veterans deserve special attention.

"Whether or not that facility reopens again in a year or two years is not the number-one concern. The concern is to get the care, the health care that the veterans need," said DenDekker.

VA officials said veterans who need help in the area can call 1-855-269-8338 for more information.

Some veterans fear that the damage sustained at the Manhattan facility will be used as an excuse to close the hospitals permanently. There has been talk of that before.

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