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Improving Health Care for Our Veterans

Op-Ed

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Improving Health Care for Our Veterans

This week, the nation honors our hospitalized veterans, a group that includes more than 98,000 former members of the U.S. Armed Services who are cared for every day in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes such as the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland. These facilities are often the primary resource of quality health care to the nation's veterans. However, there are avoidable funding shortfalls in the current federal budget that prevent improvement and expansion of these services.

In my discussions with South Jersey veterans, it is clear that their highest priority is fully funding for the VA health care system. I have long believed the health care services rightly provided to our veterans should not be subject to the annual appropriations process, which is often delayed by political posturing and personal agendas.

To ensure full funding for veterans' services is not needlessly delayed, I am an original cosponsor and strong supporter of H.R. 1041, the "Veterans Health Care Full Funding Act," introduced by fellow New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04). This legislation would create the Veterans Health Care Funding Review Board. This independent, non-partisan board of experts in health economics, health policy, and health care delivery would determine the level of funding for veterans health care programs in two year increments. The legislation would also require funding for the two years, which would provide more stability in veterans' health care services. Further, I support legislation which would extend the eligibility of hospital care, medical services or nursing home care provided by the VA to veterans returning from combat operations.

Additionally, I have worked closely with the VA Medical Center in Wilmington to expand health services to South Jersey veterans. Beyond allowing veterans to see their own local doctors for certain routine, high-demand services and procedures such as physical therapy and dermatology, the Wilmington VA has increased services provided at the outpatient clinics in Vineland, Ventnor and Cape May as well as the Vineland Veterans Memorial Home.

At every possible opportunity, I meet with our veterans here in South Jersey. In addition to listening to the wealth of stories and personal histories they have amassed during their service, it is important to hear about the difficulties they may be having, particularly with the VA, so that action can be taken. Without question, the nation owes a great deal of gratitude for their selfless actions in defense of the freedoms we all enjoy and the security of our country. I continue to work each day to ensure our veterans receive what they have rightly earned.


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