Andrzejczak, Albano, Eustace, & Wilson Bill to Improve Health Care Access for NJ Veterans Clears Final Legislative Hurdle
By Mel Fabrikant Friday, January 10, 2014, 11:38 AM EST
Plan Designed to Help Southern NJ Veterans; Ease Waiting Times Throughout the State
Legislation Assembly Democrats Bob Andrzejczak, Nelson Albano, Tim Eustace, and Gilbert “Whip” Wilson sponsored urging the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to support the recommendations of New Jersey Veterans Hospital Task Force was given final legislative approved 39-0 by the Senate.
The bill (ACR-177) is based on recommendations from the New Jersey Veterans Hospital Task Force, which studied the idea of constructing and operating of a veterans' health care facility in southern New Jersey.
During its meetings, the members of the task force received testimony from veterans about the significant challenges faced by veterans seeking healthcare and the at-times demeaning process they had to go through to meet their healthcare needs, including traveling considerable distances from their homes in southern New Jersey, in some cases resulting in trips of more than 100 miles and five hours travel time, and then spending additional time waiting for a meeting with a doctor.
“Clearly, we have a significant need for more healthcare opportunities for veterans living in southern New Jersey who must travel to veterans clinics in East Orange, Delaware or Philadelphia to have their healthcare needs addressed,” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland), who was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. “This is unfair to these New Jersey veterans who have served their country with distinction and deserve to have closer, more accessible healthcare as they grow older and travel becomes more difficult.”
“These veterans deserve our best, and unfortunately they’re not getting that when they’re forced to travel long distances to have their health care needs met,” said Albano (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “We need everyone to get on board and push forward with these basic recommendations to improve the quality of life for our veterans. It’s the right thing to do.”
“Caring for our veterans must be a priority,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Ensuring all our veterans in New Jersey are treated properly will benefit everyone, including by among other things reducing waiting lines at northern New Jersey facilities. These are basic concepts and should be embraced by everyone.”
“South Jersey veterans deserve better, and this bill is a step in the right direction,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Anything we can do to repay the debt we owe these brave men and women is the right thing to do.”
The bill expresses to the Department of Veterans Affairs the Legislature’s support for the following:
• 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 Cape May Regional Medical Center, the Virtua System, Atlanticare, Shore Memorial Hospital, the Inspira Health Network, the Meridian Health Care System, the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation and Deborah Heart and Lung Center, to name just a few of the healthcare facilities that are interested in participating in the 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 the approximately 44,600 veterans who live in Ocean County into VISN 4 from their current VISN, so that veterans from that county, which has the greatest number of veterans in the State, would no longer need to travel as much as four to six hours round trip to get to East Orange, Wilmington or Philadelphia for healthcare services;
• Determine what services are available at each community based outpatient clinic and increase communication among all community based outpatient clinics;
• Provide additional, readily accessible, information about the healthcare services, outreach services and varied information sources that are available currently to veterans living in southern New Jersey;
• Focus greater attention on the healthcare needs of women veterans;
• Provide additional staffing to all community based outpatient clinics where needed and appropriate, including the Northfield Veterans Clinic, the Cape May VA Outpatient Clinic and the Vineland Veterans Clinic, which are admirable facilities that lack sufficient personnel to provide the essential services and address adequately the needs of local veterans;
• Establish a continuing veterans oversight committee for the state, composed of three individuals, one each from North, Central and Southern New Jersey, that would be a bridge between the State and the federal government, and that would also be a liaison to each major civilian healthcare facility that serves veterans in the State;
• Provide, in particular, a liaison for each major civilian healthcare facility in the southern New Jersey area to assist those veterans who use the fee-based services offered at such facilities and to assist the hospitals to interact successfully with the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of veterans living in southern New Jersey.
Authenticated copies of this resolution will now be signed by the Speaker of the General Assembly and the President of the Senate would be transmitted to the Secretary of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.