As the country takes a moment to honor its veterans, the veterans locally in the tri-county area should be on notice that the VA has slowly minimized the canteen/PX located at the VA facility in Batavia, N.Y.
It’s not too late to reverse this action because once they finally declare the service is not needed, or no one is complaining about the lack of service, we will never get it back. The Buffalo VA facility will absorb all perceived benefits of having a larger canteen/PX, resulting in making veterans drive to Buffalo for usage.
The Buffalo facility will be enhanced while the Batavia Facility continues to diminish in services supporting the benefit of veterans, veteran patients, visiting families wishing to meet with loved ones, and staff working the facility.
It was approximately 15 years ago that the Batavia VA canteen/PX last provided a warm meal for breakfast and lunch. The canteen utilized its own kitchen to prepare food.
The merchandise provided in the PX was in comparison and modeled to a military PX satellite facility on active duty. (The satellite PX’s were stationed in close proximity to the barracks for easy access by soldiers, even though each base maintained a large PX). They provided basic clothing items, gifts, medical needs, snack and drinks.
Both food and merchandise in the VA Canteen /PX are tax free.
Today the Batavia Canteen/PX has been forced to downsize … kitchen is being scraped or cannibalized which now makes it incapable of providing a meal. More recently, the Buffalo canteen supplied prepared food and sandwiches to slowly minimize the service, but currently that food supplement has even been terminated.
The space provided for merchandise is now down to a few shelves, counter space and two walls for hanging items.
Yes, it is true that the mission for the Batavia facility is now changed to provide service to the “Veterans Health Clinic”, “End of Life”, “Long Term Care”, and PTSD patients. The veterans utilizing the facility as well as visiting veterans or family members deserve the same benefit as what is offered in the Buffalo VA facility.
You would think that the main kitchen in each VA facility could utilize a plan to assist the canteen/PX, but understand both entities (hospital and canteen/PX) have different management. The VA health side allows usage of space, security and operational guidance within the facility while the canteen/PX manages by usage and cost of operation.
The Batavia foot traffic is going to be less because of the type of patient being served. These veteran patients are not going to complain about the loss of service, it’s the visiting families, the clinic users, the PTSD patients, the local veterans organizations that should be bringing this inequity out into the open.
Veterans’ opinions and involvement should be part of a change in a provided benefit. Did anyone in the VA management even consider involving the county Veteran Services officers in the tri-county area to obtain information from local Veterans about maintaining a viable canteen/PX in Batavia?
Now you know the problem.
Don’t be fooled by VA management that may respond that the Batavia VA can’t support a canteen/PX. The veterans in the tri-county area deserve no less than what is being offered to veterans in the Buffalo VA facility.
It’s not the money, it’s not the lack of employees willing to work in the canteen, it’s not the lack of space, and it’s not the lack of security (Batavia has 24 hour officer security). If the VA health management needs to supplement the cost to ensure the service is appropriate, then let it happen! If the canteen/PX needs a separate entrance to enhance foot traffic on off hours, then let’s work on it!
If nothing happens, then nothing will change and the area veterans will lose out.
This is the time for Veteran Organizations to stand up and begin to support the local Batavia VA. Yes, many organizations currently do support activities which are greatly appreciated by veteran patients and staff, and they should continue.
Here is another suggestion: Why not let the NYS Association of Counties and State County Veteran Service Officer Association initiate an inquiry directly to VA regional or even to VA national Headquarters in Washington DC.
Here is another suggestion: why not let the Tri-County “Operation Green Light” initiative provide support and inquiry.
Per a news article on 10/27/22 in The Batavia Daily News written by Mr. Brian Quinn of The Daily News, the tri-county legislators by resolution all support the “Green Light” initiative to support veterans. Maybe it’s time to walk the talk and get behind supporting a local canteen/PX.
Here is another suggestion: Our local Assemblyman Mr. Hawley currently is part of the NYS Assembly Veterans Committee, maybe he could take the lead to communicate with veteran organizations, gather petitions, initiate inquiries with VA management to support a positive change for the betterment of local Veterans.
On Nov. 11th, we take time to salute and honor the service and sacrifice of all our men and women having served and currently serving to protect our freedoms. The local Batavia VA facility will bring out the Red, Blue and White, local military services will take place across the area, but if you need to visit a veteran patient at the Batavia facility, don’t count on the canteen being open!
That is a disgrace and we certainly can do better. This letter is intended to initiate awareness and reverse an inappropriate action being hidden by VA management.
Hopefully, we should not have to wait until next Nov. 11th, 2023, to get discussion and/or action on this subject.
Now it’s up to you to preserve a local veteran benefit. Ask questions, discuss with politicians, discuss within veteran organizations, gather support from Veterans.
The local area lost the VA Hospital (full service), then they downgraded the usage of the facility eventually giving way to provide service for “End of Life”, “Long Term Care” and recently PTSD service for men and women. Now they will eventually close the canteen/PX or downsize it to a below minimal level to maintain a presence to promote that they are providing the benefit.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo VA will continue to push for a new hospital.
What will become of the Batavia VA facility? Can you see a pattern!?
Note, a copy of this letter is being forwarded to the following:
n VA WNY Healthcare System-Facility Director – Michael Swartz.
n NYS Assembly-Veterans Affairs Committee – Stephen Hawley.
n Genesee County Veterans Service Officer – William Joyce.
n Batavia VA Canteen Service-Canteen Chief – Glenn Rothschild.