Van Drew, Albano move bill designed to help bring veterans' hospital to South Jersey : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land

November 12, 2019 by No Comments

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Van Drew, Albano move bill designed to help bring veterans’ hospital to South Jersey

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Legislation to establish an 18-member task force to make recommendations to the federal government on how best to build and operate a veterans’ health care facility in South Jersey was approved Thursday by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“Our veterans deserve our best, and forcing our southern New Jersey veterans to travel long distances for health care is not acceptable,” Assemblyman Matthew W. Milam (D-Cape May), a co-sponsor of the legislation said. “We need to do better, and this task force will help us determine the best way possible to ensure veterans in southern New Jersey get the best health care possible.”

South Jersey lacks a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs inpatient medical center, forcing veterans needing inpatient care to travel to veterans’ hospitals in North Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware.

The VA has small clinics in Ventnor, Cape May and Vineland, but they only perform some outpatient medical services and are often overwhelmed by a large number of veterans seeking care.

“These men and women fought to protect our freedom, and deserve a reasonably accessible hospital that can meet their often specialized health care needs,” Milam said. “Forcing them to drive long distances for health care is, quite simply, wrong. We need to fix this.”

Past calls for a VA hospital in South Jersey have been rejected by federal officials who cite a lack of need in the region.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), who is sponsoring the bill in the upper house, argues the information on which the VA has based its decision is flawed. He said VA statistics, for example, do not include Ocean County, where the largest numbers of veterans reside, in the count of southern New Jersey.

“With veterans and government representatives working together, this task force would provide a true picture of the need for care in the region and lay out recommendations for the best way to meet it,” Van Drew said. “Armed with this information, it is my hope that we can finally persuade the federal government to expand services and show our veterans the respect they have earned.”

The bill (A-845) establishes the New Jersey Veterans’ Hospital Task Force to study, evaluate and make recommendations related to the construction and operation of a veterans’ health care facility in southern New Jersey.

The task force would:

  • Estimate the capital, operational and administrative expenses associated with establishing a new veterans’ health care facility in South Jersey, or contracting with an existing health care facility to provide medical services to veterans;
  • Obtain and review statistical data on the number of veterans residing in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean and Salem counties and the number of veterans receiving medical services at hospitals within those counties in the past five years to determine a central location for a veterans’ health care facility;
  • Determine the size and staffing levels necessary for a veterans’ health care facility to provide a full range of primary care and medical and surgical subspecialty care to eligible veterans;
  • Review various methods of financing a veterans’ health care facility through public, private and public-private partnership financing systems; and
  • Investigate opportunities for the state to enter into collaborative agreements with the federal government to ensure the most efficient use of funds and resources related to the operation of a veterans’ health care facility.

The task force would have to report to Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature no later than 12 months after its initial meeting.

The bill moves to the full Assembly for consideration.