VA Cutting Home Care Benefits

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At age 20, Rita Stasiak, of Elizabeth Township, served as a Navy meteorologist during the Vietnam War. Today, afflicted with Parkinson’s, she is confined to a special chair, 24-7, with VA-provided home health care 35 hours a week.

“I need help with bathing, and eating, and dressing, and going to the bathroom,” Stasiak told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday. Now the local VA wants to take this away. Stasiak received a phone call from a woman at the VA who said, she recalled, “Instead of getting 35 hours a week, you’re lucky. You’re going to get six hours a week. I’m not going to survive with that. And she said, sorry.”

Many others are getting similar calls like disabled Army vet Gerald Powell of the North Side who gets 25 hours a week of home health care. “She said the VA is cutting back on home health care, and you’re only going to get six hours a week,” said Powell.

In a statement, the local VA said it was reviewing what it called “excessive levels of in-home assistance,” but now says it is doing a “close second look” at its initial decisions. Cutting back home health services for veterans certainly flies in the face of President Trump’s promise to increase, not cut, benefits.

KDKA’s Jon Delano has reaction from Rep. Mike Doyle —

And it’s also at odds with statements from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin, interviewed at the White House in the spring by KDKA’s Jon Delano. “Care needs to involve having good access. When people need services, they can get it,” insisted Shulkin. Denying adequate home health betrays these words, but Shulkin acknowledged the VA makes mistakes. “We are here to make sure we are honoring the commitment we made to veterans. When we don’t always get it right, and we know we don’t always get it right, we want to know about it and we want to fix it,” the secretary said.

Delano: “What’s your message to the secretary?”

Stasiak: “He needs to do his job better. Like I said, fight for the veterans. We deserve at least to be taken care of.”

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