Maloney holds town meeting in Walden
“We can’t help everyone in every instance, but we sure try,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.
With that caveat in place, Maloney opened the floor at the village hall in Walden last week to questions and concerns from residents of the state’s 18th Congressional District, which encompasses all of Orange County. The meeting was part of his “Speak with Sean” program in which he has been holding “neighborhood office hours” in different communities to give residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions in a one-on-one format.
Pine Bush resident Vaughn Balbach voiced a complaint on behalf of her 83-year-old father, a WWII veteran who is having difficulty obtaining benefits and services. She spoke of voluminous paperwork that left her feeling as though the government was playing a delaying tactic.
“Why are we sending so much money overseas and not taking care of our veterans? It’s a disgrace,” said Balbach. “He sacrificed so much. It’s not right.”
Rep. Maloney said she wasn’t alone and he has been working to help other residents with the same problem.
“I’ve helped hundreds of families like yours,” said Maloney, noting that so far he has helped return more than $1.1 million to Hudson Valley taxpayers who were owed veterans’ benefits, Social Security checks, tax refunds and other payments. “I really believe no one should go fight for their country and come home to fight their own government.”
Other residents put Maloney on the spot, questioning him about the Affordable Healthcare Act and resulting difficulties. One man asserted that President Barrack Obama had knowingly made false statements about people being able to keep their health insurance plans if they liked them.
“I don’t think he should have said things that are false,” said Rep. Maloney. “A lot of people upset about it and I can see why.”
Maloney noted that he came into office after the Act was voted into place and while he thinks there are a lot of good things in the bill, there are things that he’s “worried about” and his office has had a “flood” of cases of people who have been negatively affected by the move. They have also heard from those who are excited because they were previously unable to obtain health insurance.
One resident at the meeting, Christina Onofry, stated that her family is losing their insurance coverage as part of the fallout from the changes happening across the country and said she was having difficulty with the state’s health exchange, noting that the biggest providers are not on the exchange and her doctors are clueless as to whether their services are covered by the different plans being offered.
“How am I supposed to figure out which is best for me and my kids? How can I pick a plan if the doctors don’t even know what they’re on?” Onofry asked.
Maloney advised Onofry and others expressing some of the same concerns that his office has a person devoted full-time to helping taxpayers figure out their best options. He concluded that the next step is to fix what is not working and move forward.
Mary Ellen Matise, village historian for Walden, also asked Maloney about funding for Dial-A-Bus services to provide seniors with transportation to doctor appointments instead of depending on volunteers and Maloney said his office would look into it.
Others expressed concerns ranging from immigration and tightening of the country’s borders to questionable moves by power companies and advocating for the return of passenger rail to the village.
“I’m here to work for folks in the Hudson Valley, and our office is here to be their advocate and help cut through any bureaucratic red tape of the federal government,” said Rep. Maloney. “Too often people feel like no one is fighting for them, so I’m looking forward to meeting with my neighbors throughout the Hudson Valley to hear how we can better serve them.”
By RACHEL COLEMAN