LINWOOD — Veterans advocate Marco Polo Smigliani crowded around the microphone with key people in the Department of Veterans Affairs and others for the "Bob Burns in the Afternoon" radio program on 1400 WOND Friday, Dec. 22 at the Longport Media studio in Linwood.

They were there to talk about issues important to local veterans and their families.

Burns facilitated a conversation that Smigliani said was two years in coming together — a conversation about what is happening at the VA that affects veterans locally, and what is happening at the Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Northfield.

“This was a really big step forward for the entire South Jersey veterans community,” Smigliani told The Current. “These are the people, from Washington to Wilmington to Northfield, who have a direct hand in the care of our veterans.”

Joining in the conversation were Vincent Kane, director of the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Kim Butler, associate director; Bill Griffiths, South Jersey and Delaware community based outreach clinic manager; Cynthia Murray, the nurse manager at the Northfield clinic; Jacqui Hinker of the South Jersey Veterans Outreach Team; and veterans advocate Paul Sutton.

The group talked about the Care in the Community program, which works to keep veterans close to home for the medical care they need through partnerships between the VA and community health care providers.

Shore Medical Center, AtlantiCare, Cape Regional and Inspira Health Care are all collaborating to provide health care for veterans locally when possible so they can avoid traveling to Wilmington.

Kane said the VA wants to help veterans and wants to hear from veterans — not just complaints but suggestions.

“We have an opportunity to make things better for all veterans moving forward,” Kane said.

“We are putting veterans first, and our focus is on quality health care. We want to ensure veterans that the oversights are in place, the right providers are in place. If we cannot provide the care at our CBOC, we have partnerships in place that will provide the care."

Hinker said she and Pat Carney, a member of the outreach team, are attending as many community events as possible to help veterans enroll for benefits.

Murray said the mission of the Northfield clinic has been restated. In the past, maybe South Jersey veterans were not on the map, she said, but that has changed, and now they can offer patients coordinated health and behavioral care.

For information about the Veterans Administration or signing up for veterans benefits, email or call 302-304-5509.

The Atlantic County CBOC is at 1909 New Road in Northfield. To make an appointment call 800-461-8262, ext. 2800. For transportation assistance call 609-645-5910.

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