Veterans support Valley View

More important than money: Veterans say affordable, high-quality nursing home care is in jeopardy in their community

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  • Veterans Bill Paul, Eliot Hermon, Joe Blau, Pete Masella, Nick Ierardi, and Jim F. Charette at last year's Veterans Day ceremonies in Chester. (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

  • Vinnie Marino of Monroe at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., during a Hudson Valley Honor Flight in 2012.

“That facility houses upwards of 50 vets at a time. As a vet, it’s the only thing available to us other than Montrose. Having it there is very beneficial for the families. It’s centrally located, so the families can visit. There’s plenty of parking, and it’s a great facility with good patient care."
Jim Bruno, Veterans Coalition of Orange County

By Ginny Privitar

— The public had thought its wish to keep Valley View nursing home in county hands was finally secured, after a bruising two-year battle between the legislature and the former county executive.

But the prospect of privatization has suddenly reared up again, with the new county executive, Steve Neuhaus, bent on passing it off to a Local Development Corporation in preparation for a sale.

Local veterans are not happy at the prospect, fearing that a privatized Valley View will not give the same high-quality and affordable care for which the home has long been cherished. Neuhaus' latest assurance is that the home will not close. But if the home is not under county control, a new owner may ultimately decide to close it for good.

“I don’t think it’s right, I really don’t," said Pete Rollins of Goshen, who leads the local chapter of the Disabled Veterans of America. "They’ve been fighting this for years and everybody thought it was done, and now the poor workers and families have to go through all this anxiety again. The families thought they were settled in and now — they have no idea what’s going on.”

Jim Bruno of Goshen, a director of the Veterans Coalition of Orange County, said veterans want to know how other privatized nursing facilities are doing.

“That facility houses upwards of 50 vets at a time," Bruno said of Valley View. "As a vet, it’s the only thing available to us other than Montrose. Having it there is very beneficial for the families. It’s centrally located, so the families can visit. There’s plenty of parking, and it’s a great facility with good patient care."

The fact that the cost is subsidized by the county makes it affordable for these people, he said.

“Other nursing homes are all privatized," said Bruno. "The question is, how are these other facilities doing for the patients and the families?”

Jerry Oser of Harriman, American Legion Commander, said that while private homes are capable of giving good care, he'd rather have the home under county control, or, at least, give county residents a vote.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought and talked to different people," Oser said. "If they privatize it, they’re not going to kick the people there out. It would be the same as Elant. They’re private and they treat patients very well. There’s many scenarios that it could go."

But he'd prefer that the county keep Valley View. "That way, it has control over the property and such," he said. "They could always sell part of the land. The county could sell it with the stipulation it stay a nursing home for 100 years."

Oser said county residents should decide.

"I myself would pay extra taxes to keep it," he said. "I spoke to people at Valley View. They are very concerned with what happens to the vets. I’ve been told, if it does go private, vets won’t be kicked out.”

Eliot Herman of Middletown is president of the Duncan T. Trueman Chapter, Battle of the Bulge Veterans, which meets in Monroe. “It will pretty much be a foregone conclusion if (Neuhaus) appoints the people to the Local Development Corporation," he said. “I know it’s a drain on the finances of the county. That’s not a question. But this is a service to taxpayers who have been working and paying taxes here.”

Larry Malone of Monroe said he "can be sympathetic to both sides."

"Until I get to know more about it, I’m neutral," said Malone. "It would be my desire that whatever the decision legislators decide, it may benefit the needs of the people and not the needs of the politicians.”

Vinnie Marino of Monroe said Valley View's greatest benefit is that it's affordable, where private homes often are not.

“I prefer it to stay as it is for the people who are patients there already," said Marino, a World War II veteran. "Most people are on Medicaid. If it does go private, they’d screen people more closely. When they go private, the prices jump up. The people who take over — all they’re interested in is making money. It’s better if it stays. I would prefer it stays in the county.”

"I think it stinks," said Joan Bonomi of Chester. She spoke for her husband, Jim, who was a patient at Valley View until recently. She said Jim is "truly very upset" about Neuhaus' plans.

"He was released in December and Jimmy was treated very well there," Bonomi said. "He had no problems. I never had a problem with the aides or the nursing staff, and they had a lot of patients and they were understaffed.

She called Neuhaus "a disgrace."

"He professes to be military man," she said. "It’s a travesty of justice. It truly is. Instead of making it better, they’re destroying it. Forget about bringing businesses in and giving them tax breaks.

“The minute, I heard (the news) I knew then it was a done deal. I went to lunch with girls I got to know from Valley View. They don’t know whether to take their loved ones out or leave them there, but they’re very happy with the care. If they privatized they only have to keep X amount of Medicaid patients. For a lot of patients, this is their home. They’re not giving Mr. Lawrence LaDue (the new Valley View administrator) a chance. He just got in there in January.”

A chorus of support

Many other veterans The Chronicle asked agreed:

Jack Collins, Chester: “I think there’s got to be a way to work something out. There’s a lot of people in there that need it. What do you do? Just close the door and say goodbye? I just hope they can work it out to keep it open."

Jeff DeSharnais, Chester: “I don’t think it’s a good idea. I was surprised, and I voted for Neuhuas. I thought he was against (selling) it and now he’s for it.”

Frank Giorgio, Chester: “Where are these people going to go? That’s my question. The money is another thing — how are they going to finance (alternate care)? Are people going to be able to afford it?”

Nick Ierardi, Chester: “I would think it’s not in (Neuhaus’) hands. The legislature should decide. Let the legislators do what they have to do."

Bob Gordon, Monroe: "I really don’t think the quality of the care is going to change. The county can’t afford it. The taxpayers can’t afford it. I really don’t think it’s going anywhere.”

Joe Verbet Jr., Chester: “I’m not very happy with what they’re talking about. I would like to hear some information on what’s going on. They have three golf courses, plus the county airport, and I would like know what money they’re losing. I think it’s going to be a close vote with the legislators.”

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