Expansion of veterans benefits advances in Legislature

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Veterans benefits Veterans benefits

TRENTON - The state Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee has approved legislation sponsored and supported by Sen. Christopher J. Connors and Assembly members Brian E. Rumpf and DiAnne C. Gove that contains the recommendations issued by the Veterans’ Hospital Task Force for a comprehensive plan for expanding health care access for military veterans living in the southern part of the state.

It was OK’d Thursday, May 23.

The 9th District Delegation sponsored the law that originally established the task force.

Subsequently, Connors and Gove were named to the task force by Gov. Chris Christie.   The bipartisan-supported resolution urges the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to take appropriate action to expand health care access for military veterans living in South Jersey.

 “As evidenced by testimony provided during the task force’s hearings, drastic changes are needed in the VA’s delivery of medical services in order to meet the increasing needs of veterans living in the southern end of the state,” Connors said.  “Initially, one of the task force’s primary action items was to examine the feasibility of constructing a veterans’ hospital in South Jersey.  When it became apparent building a new facility would be cost prohibitive, portability of health insurance emerged as a more realistic and attractive option whereby veterans could receive medical care from local non-VA facilities as a means of addressing inadequacies under the current system.”

Rumpf said, “There is no question that the VA’ dedicated personnel have, over the decades, capably delivered medical services to our veterans.  However, after hearing of the hardships that many veterans in our area are forced to endure, including having to travel unreasonable distances to VA facilities located in another state, it is apparent that sweeping changes are necessary to better care for our veterans.”

Gove said, “Insightful testimony offered by representatives of local medical facilities further substantiated that the portability of health insurance for our veterans could be a viable and practical solution to the current unacceptable state of affairs. Accordingly, the legislation supports the task force’s recommendation for the creation of a pilot program, which would be administered by the VA, to give area veterans greater access to local medical centers.  Such an initiative would not only greatly enhance healthcare opportunities for all veterans living in southern New Jersey but would very likely prove to be a more cost effective system of providing high-quality care.”

The legislation urges the VA to support the following recommendations:

Recognize that the deficiencies in the healthcare needs of veterans living in southern New Jersey is a serious problem that must be addressed as soon as possible; Assuming that the construction of a new veterans’ healthcare facility in southern New Jersey is not feasible, create a pilot program to give area veterans greater access to local medical centers, including AtlantiCare, the Bacharach Institute of Rehabilitation, Cape May Regional Medical Center, the Virtua System, Shore Medical Center, the Inspira Health Network and the Meridian Health Care System, which represent just a few health care facilities that are interested in participating in the pilot program; recognize that such a pilot program, administered by the department, would save money and greatly enhance healthcare opportunities for all veterans living in Southern New Jersey; move Ocean County into Veterans’ Integrated Service Network 4 from its current VISN, so that veterans from that county, which has the greatest number of veterans in the state, would no longer need to travel to East Orange, Wilmington or Philadelphia for needed healthcare services; provide additional information about the healthcare services that are already available to veterans living in Southern New Jersey; focus greater attention on the healthcare needs of women veterans; and provide additional staffing to the Northfield Veterans’ Clinic, which is an admirable facility but lacks sufficient staff to address adequately the needs of local veterans.

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