Southern New Jersey veterans hospital / Approve Shore plan : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land

November 12, 2019 by No Comments



Southern New Jersey veterans hospital / Approve Shore plan


For years, southern New Jersey veterans have understandably complained about having to trek 65 miles to get treated at the closest U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. Veterans who are elderly and sick must travel an hour and a half each way to get to the Wilmington, Del., facility.

The VA contends that the number of veterans isn’t large enough to justify a veterans hospital in southern New Jersey. But veterans groups and southern New Jersey lawmakers have long countered that the government’s methodology grossly undercounts the number of vets who could benefit from a more local facility.

Despite political pressure, the VA has been unmoved. But now, there appears to be a partial solution that could provide a pilot project for the nation – if the federal government will just approve it.

Shore Memorial Hospital is proposing to offer radiation and dialysis treatments to veterans at Medicare rates under the authority of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

It’s a win-win. Cancer and kidney failure are the kinds of sicknesses that make a three-hour round trip especially burdensome. And Shore Memorial just recently opened its new Outpatient Dialysis Center in Northfield. It’s cancer center opened in 2004. So it could have the program up and running quickly, according to Shore Memorial officials.

Once the program is set up, veterans advocates hope it might expand to other treatments. But even if it is confined to radiation and dialysis, it appears to be an excellent partial solution to a long-running standoff.

Fact is, it does sound as though the VA numbers in southern New Jersey are low. The federal government only considers the number of veterans enrolled in its VA program, which some say is only a fraction of the vets in the area – many of whom might not enroll because there is no convenient hospital.

And state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, among others, contends the numbers are also low because the VA does not count Ocean County as belonging to southern New Jersey. Instead, those veterans are expected to drive to East Orange, Essex County – which is unreasonable, Van Drew says.

Last spring, the state Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee held a crowded hearing in Somers Point, where vets urged the establishment of a local VA facility. The state Senate subsequently approved a resolution urging federal officials to create a medical center in southern New Jersey. In November, the state Assembly voted to set up an 18-member task force to study the need for a southern New Jersey veterans hospital.

But the Shore Memorial proposal, particularly if it is expanded in the future, could eventually make this long-running argument moot. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should get the ball rolling and approve the application.