TRENTON – The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee approved a resolution aimed at providing improved health care access for veterans in South Jersey.
The committee urged the federal Veterans Affairs Department to support recommendations of the state veterans Hospital Task Force, whose main recommendation is to create facilities closer to where veterans live.
Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), of Dennis, said there’s a void in “Deep South Jersey” when it comes to veterans health care facilities.
The resolution states that veterans have to go out of their way – literally and figuratively – to gain access to health care, a process the resolution describes as “demeaning.”
That includes, the resolution states, driving “considerable distances from their homes in southern New Jersey, in some cases resulting in trips of more than 100 miles and five hours travel time, and then spending additional time waiting for a meeting with a doctor.”
Van Drew said in some cases, veterans brought along baby bottles to urinate in.
The senator said that various community hospitals in South Jersey are interested in helping veterans. The resolution calls for a pilot program where they could provide such services for veterans.
Among the medical centers where health care services could be provided for them are Cape May Regional Medical Center, the Virtua System, Atlanticare, Shore Memorial Hospital, the South Jersey Health Care System, the Meridian Health Care System, and the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation.
Other recommendations the resolution calls for include:
*providing closer health care access for some 44,000 veterans living in Ocean County, which has the most veterans of any New Jersey county.
*determining what services are available at each outpatient clinic and increasing communication among all such outpatient clinics;
*providing additional, readily-accessible information about the healthcare services, outreach services and varied information sources that are available to veterans living in southern New Jersey;
*focusing greater attention on the healthcare needs of women veterans;
*providing additional staffing to all community based outpatient clinics where needed, including the Northfield Veterans Clinic, the Cape May VA Outpatient Clinic and the Vineland Veterans Clinic;
*establishing a continuing veterans oversight committee for the state, composed of three individuals, one each from North, Central and Southern New Jersey, that would be a bridge between the state and the federal government, and that would also be a liaison to each major civilian healthcare facility that serves veterans in the state;
*providing, in particular, a liaison for each major civilian healthcare facility in the southern New Jersey area to assist those veterans who use the fee-based services offered at such facilities, and to assist the hospitals to interact successfully with the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of veterans living in southern New Jersey.
If these recommendations are successfully implemented, Van Drew said the list could serve as “a good template, model for veterans health care.”