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Military And Veterans’ Affairs Committee Approves Bill To Create Hospital Task Force

Panel Would Develop Recommendations for Expanding Veterans’ Health Care Services in South Jersey

The Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved legislation today, sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic), that would create a task force to study and develop recommendations for expanding veterans’ health care services in southern New Jersey.

The panel approved the legislation at an off-site committee meeting held today at the Somers Point VFW Post 2189 in Atlantic County, where dozens of veterans told stories of having to travel for more than an hour, sometimes taking day-long trips, to get to veterans’ hospitals for care.

“The stories we heard today demonstrate that clearly there is a need to expand health care services for veterans in South Jersey,” said Senator Van Drew. “Too often, veterans are forced to travel hours to North Jersey or across state lines to Delaware or Pennsylvania to get basic health care. Some forego care altogether because the trip is just too much to bear. This is just wrong.”

“Veterans in the southern region of the state deserve access to the health care services they were promised while serving our country, just as much as veterans in Wilmington, Philadelphia and North Jersey,” Senator Van Drew added.

There is no federal Department of Veterans Affairs inpatient veterans’ medical center in southern New Jersey. While the VA has established small clinics in Ventnor, Cape May and Vineland, they are only equipped to perform certain types of outpatient medical services, and are often overwhelmed by the large number of veterans seeking care.

The legislation (S-1189) approved by the committee would create the “New Jersey Veterans’ Hospital Task Force” to study and develop recommendations for constructing and operating a veterans health care facility in southern New Jersey, or for contracting with an existing health care facility to provide services to veterans.

“This task force is the first step toward bringing accessible, comprehensive health care services to veterans across South Jersey,” said Senator Van Drew. “With a cross section of veterans and government representatives, this group will provide a full picture of the need for care in the region and lay out recommendations for the best way to provide it.”

Members of the task force would include representatives of state government and the Legislature, as well as veterans with backgrounds in the medical field and a veteran from each of the following counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem. The committee amended the bill today to add a designee from Ocean County.

The 18-member panel would be required to submit its recommendations to the Governor and Legislature within a year of its initial meeting.

The committee also approved a second measure (SR-28) that would urge Congress and the President to immediately enact legislation establishing a veterans’ hospital in the South Jersey region.

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