VESTAL, NY (WSKG) – For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) has threatened to close a veterans clinic in the rural Chenango County community of Bainbridge.
Now, a recent appropriations bill has language that prevents the clinic’s closure without a market-area assessment.
That’s a study that determines a community’s needs. In this case, the need is healthcare for veterans.
Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) is on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and helped get the language into the bill. Brindisi represents the 22nd Congressional District, covering part of the Southern Tier and central New York.
“It doesn’t make sense to close a clinic until you have some kind of a study done to determine what the needs are of that region,” Brindisi said.
The V.A. has considered moving the clinic to Oneonta. Brindisi said he doesn’t doubt a clinic in Oneonta would be useful to veterans in that area, but he doesn’t see why that needs to be at the detriment of Bainbridge.
One argument for moving the clinic has been that Bainbridge lacks resources and veterans must still go elsewhere for proper care.
If veterans are doing that, Brindisi said a better solution is to provide more resources for rural clinics.
“If you try and reduce services there, of course veterans are going to try and go to other clinics or perhaps to the Albany V.A.,” Brindisi said. “But if you just have the services there, the veterans who live in Chenango County and Delaware County, that utilize the clinic, will continue to go there.”
The uncertainty around the clinic has gone on for years, even before Brindisi took office in 2019. Former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) was also against moving it when she held the seat from 2017-2019.
Tenney is challenging Brindisi in the November election. She did not respond to an interview request for this story.