Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew that would create a task force to study and develop recommendations for expanding veterans’ health care services in southern New Jersey was today released by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Earlier this year, Van Drew hosted a hearing on the bill (S-1189) 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.

“Veterans in our region should not be forced to travel hours to North Jersey or across state lines to Delaware or Pennsylvania to get basic health care,” said Senator Van Drew. “They deserve reasonable access to health care services, just as much as veterans in Wilmington, Philadelphia and North Jersey.”

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 often are overwhelmed by the large number of veterans seeking care. As a result, veterans are often forced to travel long distances for their health care needs.

The New Jersey Veterans’ Hospital Task Force” created under the bill would 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.

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, Ocean, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem. The 18-member panel would be required to submit its recommendations to the Governor and Legislature within a year of its initial meeting.

The Senate passed the bill in June. The bill now is poised for a final vote in the full Assembly.

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