TRENTON – The Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Linda Greenstein and Joseph Lagana that would direct the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (DMVA) to establish a program that would provide reimbursement to county governments that provide transportation services for disabled veterans to and from medical counseling appointments at any United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.
“Veterans groups have pointed to significant challenges faced by disabled veterans in finding viable, affordable transportation to VA medical centers. County governments have stepped up to help provide those services, and the state has helped fund them,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Providing more support to counties for these services would help make them more reliable and more accessible, so that disabled veterans no longer have to worry about how to get to their nearest VA medical facility.”
Under the bill, S-1069, the term “disabled veteran” would be defined as any citizen and resident honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active service in any branch of the Armed Forces of the U.S., a reserve component thereof, or the National Guard, provided they have a service-connected disability.
“The stories shared by veterans who face challenges getting to a VA center are sometimes shocking, such as blind veterans forced to walk half a mile for their appointments. More needs to be done to ensure veterans have adequate access to reliable transportation,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen). “This bill will help ensure that the counties who currently try to fill that role are able to continue to do so, and ideally further improve services for the veterans who rely upon them.”
In Fiscal Year 2023, $335,000 was appropriated to help fund county transportation services for disabled veterans, providing well over ten thousand rides to thousands of individual veterans. The bill would appropriate $2 million from the General Fund to DMVA for reimbursement to counties as part of the program.
The bill was advanced in a unanimous vote.