BIANYS is not an advocacy organization

The Brain Injury Association of NY State is not an advocacy organization despite its claim to the contrary.

Without question they are a superb source of education when it comes to brain injury and the NYS Department of Health and providers statewide would be wise to learn from them, but they are not an advocacy organization and should stop saying they are.

The Oxford English Dictionary, considered the most comprehensive English language dictionary in the world, defines advocacy as “the giving of public support to an idea, a course of action or a belief.”  I can’t think of a single public stance or public statement BIANYS has made advocating for brain injury survivors in the state, certainly not when the advocating would require them to hold the NYS DOH accountable for it’s deplorable treatment of brain injury survivors, particularly brain injury survivors on the state’s TBI Waiver.  While BIANYS leadership will deny they are in bed with the DOH, their actions or lack thereof indicate otherwise.

Consider the following:

  • If you read through past BIANYS newsletters you’d be hard pressed to find so much as a blurb about anything they are actively advocating for. BIANYS leadership will tell you, they’ve told me, that they have their way of doing things and they do advocate. I may be the first to notice the phrase, stealth advocacy. If those you claim to care about and serve are never informed of your advocacy efforts, then something is deeply wrong.
  • BIANYS was dead silent when it came to light in 2008 that Timothy J. Feeney, then the most powerful force in the TBI waiver, was misrepresenting his credentials to all comers, claiming to have a valid PhD and valid masters degree when he had neither. At the time DOH would close a provider down or stop a provider’s admissions solely on Feeney’s say so. I remember Feeney telling one provider that if he learned they were including cognitive therapy in their program he’d close them down. A statement like that makes incompetence look like expertise.
  • When the Feeney situation was brought to BIANYS’s attention by this writer (I was a BIANYS board member at the time) BIANYS made it clear they would do nothing. In fact, one board member who I will not identify, wanted to know what difference did it make if someone was lying about their credentials if they did good work.
  • BIANYS refusal to address the Feeney issue and advocate for the rights of brain injury survivors, their families and providers across the state led me to resign from the board. It was as if I’d part of an organization that claimed to stand against anti-Semitism yet fell silent when it was informed someone in power was abusing the trust and, in this case, clinical safety, of Jews.
  • When it came to light last year that the DOH issued a directive blocking service coordinators from supporting waiver participants at Medicaid Fair Hearings, a directive that can only be seen as an attempt to deny waiver participants real justice, BIANYS uttered not so much as a syllable.
  • Then, of course, there is the matter of the  TBI Waiver complaint line which is answered by BIANYS. BIANYS has been complicit in a TBI Waiver grievance process that does not inform complainants of the results of their complaints. Once a complaint is “resolved” by the DOH,  BIANYS receives written notice from DOH letting them know that the complaint’s resolution:  resolved, unfounded etc. BIANYS staff are not even permitted by BIANYS leadership to inform complainants of these results.

A silent advocate is not an advocate. If BIANYS does not believe me, perhaps the words of these three folks might enlighten them (italics are mine).

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Ruth Messinger (currently the President and CEO of American Jewish World Service). “If there’s one thing that Jews understand, it’s the danger of silence from the international community.”

Thomas Jefferson. “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

In the meantime, BIANYS should no longer say they are an advocacy organization – until they are.


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