TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Beach to help New Jersey veterans obtain the assistance and services they need, by providing travel reimbursement for certain appointments, was approved today by the Senate.
“For many veterans, arranging travel to medical counseling appointments, particularly when they are needed on a frequent basis, can be a real financial hardship,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden). “If we can ease the burden on these men and women by providing reimbursement for their out-of-pocket travel costs, then we should. This is the right thing to do for those who have served our country. However, it also makes sense from a health and a financial perspective because it will protect against unnecessary treatment delays, which could result in more severe and costly issues later on.”
The bill (S-2568) would require the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to establish a program to provide reimbursement to qualified veterans for travel to medical counseling appointments within the state for service-connected conditions approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program would reimburse qualified veterans for their own travel costs for public transportation or for using a private vehicle. The bill would require New Jersey Transit to provide receipts or other proof of travel to a qualified veteran. The reimbursement for the use of a private vehicle would be on a per mile basis. All reimbursement would be subject to availability of state and federal funding.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29 percent of those who have served since 2001 have a service-connected disability. In total, of America’s 23 million veterans, more than 3 million are receiving VA disability compensation, according to information from the VA. Medical counseling covers a wide range of services including readjustment to civilian life as well as counseling in areas such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse.
The bill passed the Assembly unanimously in February. The Senate approved it today by a vote of 33-1. It advances to the Assembly for a final vote, before heading to the governor’s desk. The measure would take effect 180 days after enactment.