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Local support, federal cuts for Brooklyn veterans

Supporting the troops: Connie Rannocchia, an Army veteran and one of the owners of the Greenwood Park Beer Garden, hosted a fund-raiser on June 6 with Vietnam Veterans of America, to support wounded, hospitalized, and homeless veterans.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Locals raised money for veterans in Brooklyn last weekend, even as budget cuts in Washington are forcing part of the borough’s veterans’ hospital to close.

Chapter 72 of Vietnam Veterans of America held a fund-raiser at Greenwood Park Beer Garden in Windsor Terrace on June 6 to aid wounded, hospitalized, and homeless veterans in need.

“It was very successful,” said Daniel Friedman, president of Chapter 72 — is also known as the Thomas P. Coughlin Memorial Chapter. “It was a good turnout,” he said, “We could have had more, [but] it was a very successful day.”

Navy veteran Frank Burr caught up with some old friends at the event, and even made a new one.

“I know a lot of guys from the 14th Avenue VA,” he said, “I even made one new friend.”

Smiling soldier: Army veteran Paddy Middleton enjoys himself at the event.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

The co-owner of the venue was delighted with the event.

“It was wonderful,” said Connie Rannocchia, who is an Army veteran and the chaplain of the chapter.

The chapter holds its regular monthly meetings at the Brooklyn Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dyker Heights, which recently announced that it will close an inpatient ward after the end of the month.

The closure of its 12-West ward will cost the hospital 25 beds, leaving it with just 46 beds to serve all veterans that have to be admitted for medical and surgical care. This would make emergency department waits even longer and it would force patients to be transferred into the Manhattan Veteran’s Affair hospital, according to vets.

“I don’t want to go to Manhattan,” said Burr, who is both a patient and a volunteer at the Brooklyn hospital, “It’s not right what they’re doing, they shouldn’t do that to any patient.”

Comrades in arms: Navy vet Frank Burr said he made new friends at the event.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

“It’s more than an inconvenience,” said Friedman, “It affects the ability of family to be with loved ones.”

Friedman also stressed the hazards of transferring surgical patients from one hospital to another. “You risk harm and infection when transporting in an ambulance,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”

Hospital officials insist that the closure of 12-West is only temporary — for an estimated 15 months — and is the result of overall belt-tightening by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The VA nationally is in a budget crunch,” said Martina Parauda, the director of Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare Systems, which administers the Brooklyn hospital.

Parauda stressed that no staff will lose their jobs, and said the Brooklyn hospital still has more than enough room to serve the borough’s veterans.

Pint-sized partiot: Luigi Tiralongo salutes the veterans.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

“We still have two other units, and a fully functional ER,” she said, adding that she does not anticipate having to move any patients to the Manhattan site.

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