9th District Legislators are strongly advocating for veterans who are in need of psychiatric assistance.
A hearing for discussion-only on bill A353 was brought before the Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee this morning. The legislation would allow for a tax credit to be available for unreimbursed psychiatric treatment provided to a veteran who has been honorably discharged from active military service and is a resident of the state.
Forked River Republicans Assemblywoman Dianne Gove, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, and Sen. Christopher Connors said the bill was initiated during a veteran’s roundtable in Ocean County.
“Under our legislation, to qualify for the tax credit, the treatment being provided must be medically necessary and provided to a veteran free of charge,’’ Gove said.
“The total cost for the credited treatment would be capped at $10,000 and the cost of per-hour treatment could not exceed $85. These provisions are provided for under the bill to prevent abuses of the tax credit by capping the cost of treatment on an hourly basis and totaled for the year.”
Committee member and Assemblywoman Alison McHose, (R-24), of Sparta questioned whether the bill would be a duplication of bills already in place. She stressed if it is not, it may be needed due to the lack of assistance to veterans in her district.
“I don’t’ know where the nearest VA is in Northwestern Jersey and there is no access to public transportation and some veterans would go to a public provider,” she said
Carl Lang, Principal Staff Officer for the State Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs, assured McHose veterans are already able to receive free transportation through the state.
McHose rebutted. “There is a need for this bill or it would not come to be. People were frustrated with the system as it is,” she said, questioning whether the State Department is maxed out in its ability to care for veterans.
According to Lang, the new bill would only be a safety net for an already efficient system in place.
Nebojsa “Vic” Zlatanovic, who served in the U.S. Army 173th Airborne Brigade and is in favor of the legislation, said researching fiscal notes, it’s impossible to know how much it will cost ultimately if the bill is not passed. It’s a moral issue, he said, not a fiscal one.
“It is something that you cannot quantify,” he said, adding. “I can sit here and talk about how much money could be saved…but I think it is more of a moral question.”
The State Senate approved its version, S-1026, in December.
9th District legislatures are also the primary sponsors of bills S-2314/A-3308, which have set-aside programs whereby 3 percent of all state contracts are set aside for veteran-owned businesses.