As a Vietnam veteran, I understand the importance of constantly working to improve health care for our veterans. I work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure that our nation lives up to its commitment here in New Jersey, especially for the men and women who use East Orange and Lyons VA Medical Centers.
That is why I am outraged that, despite the sacrifices of so many men and women in uniform, the promise our nation has made to all its veterans is not being met.
We have made a commitment to our servicemen and women that we will care for them during and after their service, as Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, I will work to ensure the VA has the resources to provide, our men and women who served in uniform, they care and benefits they earned!
A History of Support
As a veteran and the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I make it a priority to meet with the men and women in uniform from across New Jersey, wherever they are at home and abroad. I know how important these new benefits are to them and am proud that Democrats and Republicans are able to work together.
I am committed to working to provide improved benefits to veterans and their families. Part of this effort is to improve health care coverage- especially at Lyons, East Orange Veterans Medical Centers, the Morris County Outpatient facility in Morris Township, and the Sussex County Clinic in Newton, along with other facilities across New Jersey
In January of 2017 I was pleased The Sussex County Veterans Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) opened its doors marking the beginning of the next chapter of veterans’ health care in Sussex County. Since 2014, I led the fight to ensure veterans in the Sussex County area have timely access to VA healthcare. You can read more about the clinic opening here.
I am also proud that of the role I played in creating the “Valley Brook Village for Veterans,” a supportive housing community for homeless veterans which is located on the campus of the VA facility at Lyons in Bernards Township. This year more than 1,000 homeless veterans and their families will be served at this facility, giving them a fresh start to a better life.
Through my efforts, Lyons VA opened a new, state-of-the-art Ambulatory Care Center in 2005 for outpatient care and a Domiciliary Care facility to provide homeless veterans with housing, job training placement, medical and psychiatric assistance, and help with medical claims.
I continue to work closely with elected officials and veterans groups in Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Sussex counties to enhance the “Hope for Veterans” program at Lyons VA. The program provides employment services, training, substance abuse counseling, and transitional housing for veterans who have been left homeless as a result of mental illness or substance abuse. The program is blessed with many volunteers and generous private supporters.
Due to advances in battlefield medicine, troops who suffer terrible injuries in battle are far more likely to survive. That is why providing treatment for veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is also a top priority for me. I have seen the extraordinary work going on at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. The doctors, nurses, and other medical providers at these hospitals are providing remarkable care to our wounded warriors and they have my thanks and strong support.
In response to deeply disturbing reports of excessive wait times for doctor’s appointments, falsified records designed to hide the unacceptably long wait times, and gross inefficiencies across the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, in 2014, I was pleased to support the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. This law gives the VA the tools it needs to address these problems. This law will:
- Ensure that no veteran has to endure an excessive wait for needed medical care, this new law will allow eligible veterans to go outside the VA system if they cannot be given an appointment within 30 days. $10 billion is provided to cover the cost of care received outside the VA health care system.
- Further address the waiting times for appointments, this law provides $5 billion to increase the number of physicians and other health care professionals working in the VA health care facilities.
- Address the mismanagement that exists at too many VA health care facilities, the new law gives the VA greater authority to fire or demote supervisory employees for poor performance or misconduct.
- And make certain that these improvements and changes are being carried out by establishing a Congressional Commission on Care that will allow us to make sure the improvements we expect are being carried out.
In July of 2008, with my strong support, Congress modernized the GI Bill of Rights for the first time since 1984. Under the improved program, servicemen and women now have the opportunity to transfer education benefits to members of their family. Under the old law, education benefits had to be used by the person who served. For the first time, this legislation makes National Guard and Reserve members eligible for full GI Bill benefits. These men and women, all volunteers, are serving our country across the globe, and it was important to make sure their benefits match their sacrifice.
Our military veterans deserve our thanks and appreciation. For Congress, this means providing them with quality benefits and services, including affordable medical care and opportunities for higher education. Most importantly, it means setting the highest possible standard for the level of attention and care they receive, so that today’s military -- and those who step up tomorrow, all volunteers – know they will not be forgotten.
That’s my promise to those who have served and to their families.