Northport VAVS

Please note that our August 12 VSO leaders meeting is postponed and will be rescheduled when the new Director arrives.

Special Thanks from Dr. Cruise:

As her time as Interim Director of Northport VA Medical Center ends later this week, Dr. Cruise extends to you her sincere appreciation for your generous support, guidance, and assistance since she assumed this temporary role last summer.  She is thankful and proud of the efforts made with you, staff, and volunteers to improve the care of veterans at Northport VAMC.  Just this week, VA released the FY’19 second quarter SAIL (Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning) report, which shows that, since last summer, Northport VAMC has improved in its ranking and is now within 10 points of a four-star rating. 

Dr. Cruise asks you to join in welcoming Dr. Antonio Sanchez, MHSA, FAPA, FACHE, Northport VA’s newly appointed Director.  Dr. Sanchez has been with VA for nearly 19 years and most recently served as the Acting Director of the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan, Puerto Rico.   After his arrival, a meeting will be arranged for Dr. Sanchez to meet Long Island’s dedicated VSO leaders!

Facility Projects Update: 

Oscar Prue, Northport VA’s Chief of Engineering Service, retired in June.  Mr. Khalid Nagidi, the Assistant Chief of Engineering, will act as Chief until Mr. Prue’s replacement is hired.  Mr. Nagidi provided the following facility project updates, which I shared at the meeting.    

·          Steam pipe replacement project

50% complete. Anticipated end of construction is 04/05/2020.

·          Dialysis renovation

Design proposals SF 330 were received and are under review. Anticipated end of construction is 11/30/2021.

·          Pathology and Lab renovation

Project is due to start in mid-august when lab equipment is relocated and moved out of construction area. It is being coordinated by Delores Grant. Anticipated end of construction is 11/21/2019.

·          New Cat Scan (CT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) suite

Construction in progress. The AC and condensing unit will be rigged and placed on building 200 roof in mid-July. Anticipated end of construction is 11/28/2019.

·          Sterile Processing Department renovation

20% complete. Anticipated end of construction is 02/17/2020.

·          Bldg. 200 roof replacement

Safety plan is under review with safety officer. RFP for changes in scope will be negotiated and RFP costs will be determined. Anticipated end of construction is 05/27/2020.

·          Operating Room air-handling unit refurbishment

If option 2 is selected by the leadership (replace air handling unit and ductwork), then the OR suite will be down for approximately 12 weeks. The optimistic anticipated end of construction is 03/30/2020.

·          Emergency Department Project

Cost Limit Increase document is under review by Doug E. Anticipated end of construction is 11/30/2021.

·          Intensive Care Unit relocation

The new design firm is still reviewing the project. Anticipated end of construction is 02/28/2023.

·          Special Procedures Suite

Materials for air handling unit modification are due to arrive July 29th. Anticipated end of construction is 11/30/2019.

·          Roads repair project

Design is complete. Funding for construction required, likely in FY2020. Pending staffing and resources.

·          Bldg. 1 and 2 demolition

90% design is due August 2019. Anticipated end of construction is 11/30/2020.

After sharing these project updates, the following questions were asked: 

1.      Status of Homeless Residence for Building 11? According to Levi Spellman, Northport’s Public Affairs Officer, VA’s contracting office continues in the preparation of the solicitation for a homeless service provider.  As more information becomes available, it will be shared.

2.      Status of the parking project following deconstruction of Buildings 1 and 2?  According to Khalid Nagidi, Acting Chief of Engineering Service, a formal parking lot project package will be prepared and submitted to VA for approval and funding.     

Mission Act Update:

The Mission Act rollout at Northport VAMC continues to move along well.  VA’s website about the new care in the community program can found at this link:    

Since it had a rather modest start, please note that the website showing in-network urgent care providers has been updated with many Nassau and Suffolk County sites.  Here’s the link:  VA In Network Urgent Care Locator

When discussing Mission Act rules regarding urgent care coverage, some VSO leaders asked for clarification on VA priority groups.  Click on the following link for priority groups explained:

Blue Water Veterans Update, Other Environmental Exposures, and General Enrollment Information:

VA’s press release regarding its extension of agent orange presumption to ‘Blue Water Navy’ Veterans was handed out at the meeting and here is the link:

VSO leaders and VA staff engaged in a good discussion about the need for all veteran advocates to raise the awareness of military environmental exposures, to include burn pits, liver flukes, and the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.    It was noted that Northport’s former Chief of Allergy Section received national recognition for his advocacy for service members exposed to burn pits and how his efforts helped a former Long Island Congressman in co-authoring legislation that led to the establishment of the national burn pit registry.  More about the registry can be found at this link:

Speaking about environmental exposures in Southeast Asia, some leaders referenced the small liver fluke research study conducted at Northport VAMC and VA’s current, large-scale epidemiological study being conducted to determine if Vietnam veterans are diagnosed more often with cholangiocarcinoma (cancer caused by liver fluke parasite) as compared to their age matched peers (Americans who are not veterans).   According to information VA shared last year, the study has begun and the Department expects data analysis to be complete in 1.5 to 2 years.


As you know, JoAnn DeMarco, Northport VA’s Outreach Coordinator, is pleased to work with you on VA registration/enrollment events at your post/chapter locations.  Please reach out to her at or (631) 261-4400, ext. 7082.  As some of you know, veterans may be missing out on vital VA services and support they need. 

David Rogers, Suffolk County’s VFW Commander, will have a major outreach event – that includes Northport VAMC – on Saturday, August 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Centereach VFW Post at 31 Horseblock Road.  The goal is to ensure veterans know their VA and other entitlements they earned by serving. 

VA Facilities Going Smoke-free

In accordance with VHA Directive 1085 (Smoke-Free Policy for Patients, Visitors, Vendors, and Contractors at VA Health Care Facilities), Northport VAMC will be joining all other medical centers around the country by going smoke-free by October 1, 2019.  Presently, VA is negotiating with the national leaders of employee unions on a smoke-free policy for employees.   As the outcome of those negotiations becomes available, they will be shared widely.  

As Dr. Richard Stone, VA’s Executive in Charge has noted:

There is overwhelming evidence that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke creates significant medical risks. A growing body of evidence also reveals that exposure to thirdhand smoke — residue which seeps onto clothes, furniture, etc. — creates additional risks to safety and direct patient care.

A workgroup to manage the smoke-free rollout at Northport and its community clinics has been formed and will address the needs of veterans to include increased smoking cessation support.  If you have any questions about the rollout, please email me at

VA Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound allowance:

Since a few VSO leaders cited the importance of continually alerting senior veterans and their spouses about VA’s Aid and Attendance and Housebound Pension Program, here is the link: .  I’m also attaching a fact sheet that further clarifies the programs. 

Community Clergy Training to Support Veterans Mental Health:

Reverend Fred Miller of the American Legion 3rd Division shared that he is coordinating training in October for local clergy to become culturally competent in military veterans’ issues.  Attached is a registration form you are encouraged to share with clergy members in Nassau and Suffolk County.  Fred’s contact information is on the form, if you have any questions.

Volunteers for the Red Coat Ambassador Program:

The Medical Center relies heavily on thoughtful and generous volunteers.  If you know of someone looking to make a positive difference in the lives of patients, please encourage them to contact the Voluntary Service Office at ext. 7182 or email  Currently, volunteer greeters and guides are needed to assist patients at the Pavilion information desk.  Information about that specific role can be directed to

New VSO leaders:

If you have a new post or chapter commander, please email me the name, title, post #, phone number and email address so I can add new leaders to the email group.  Thanks!

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