Vets upset at planned closure of VA childcare center

Sep 16, 2014

A free childcare service offered at the Western New York VA Hospital is set to close by the end of the month. Local veterans says the closure of the Kids Korner Child Care Waiting Room will make it difficult for many to receive treatment.

OIF veteran, VFW Post 12097 Commander and mother of twins Matejka Baumgardner
Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO

The two year pilot was established by Congress as part of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. The center is the first of four childcare pilot sites in the nation.

OIF veteran, VFW Post 12097 Commander and mother of twins Matejka Baumgardner says believes the program was helped to fulfill the nation’s promise to provide quality healthcare to veterans.

“It was hard to get me in before the kids. So, now with the kids I have to be a little bit more concerned about my health for them. If the childcare facility were to close down I think I would probably revert back to not utilizing the VA healthcare system, meaning I probably wouldn’t get my medical needs taken care of,” said Baumgardner.

Baumgardner says the waiting room was a safe environment that made it easy for her and other veterans to go to appointments.

“Some veterans spend all day at the VA. The VA doesn’t only service people around western New York. It services veterans that are coming in from others states that need healthcare, so they may not have childcare services available,” said Baumgardner.

Baumgardner says the waiting room offered amenities such as a working sink, cribs, toys, educational games, even a small flat screen TV for kid’s shows that made it easy for veteran parents. The center accepted babies from 3 weeks old to children 12 years old.

WBFO News contacted the VA Hospital for comment on the closure. The VA says the program was part of a pilot so their hands are tied. They encourage veterans that use the service to contact their elected officials.

The Erie County Legislature has joined the effort to save the VA program by submitting a resolution supporting the continuation of Kids Korner. Legislators are calling on Western New York's congressional delegation to fight to keep the service open.