As previewed to local veterans at the American Legion in Millville on Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today formally introduced the "Vets Health ID Act" to create a pilot program in South Jersey "under which eligible veterans may elect to receive hospital care and medical services at non-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities."
"The promise made to our veterans is threatened by systemic failures of leadership, gross mismanagement, bureaucratic red-tape and a lack of common compassion. As veterans are being made to wait months for medical appointments and, in South Jersey, travel out of state for care, it is time to fully utilize local healthcare resources and professionals in advance of our shared mission," said LoBiondo. "I applaud the unwavering efforts of local advocates who have long agreed that our veterans should have the choice in where they receive treatment. Despite significant increases in funding and resources over the past few years, it is clear the current VA system is not caring for our veterans as it was intended. My legislation is a responsible way to ensure the health needs of our veterans are met in a timely, professional and compassionate manner."
LoBiondo's bill would require the VA to establish a pilot program in each of the twenty-three (23) Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) that grants an eligible veteran a "unique identification card" that allows for medical care at non-VA facilities at the VA's expense. Furthermore, LoBiondo's legislation specifically states that New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District will be one of the pilot programs. South Jersey is part of VISN 4. The pilot programs would need to be established and operating within one year of LoBiondo's bill being signed into law.
Throughout his time in office, LoBiondo has sought to increase local access and health services at community-based care facilities for South Jersey veterans, including advocating for new VA clinics such as those in Cape May and Northfield. In 2011, upon learning that the VA had existing blanket ordering agreements for dialysis service providers, LoBiondo forced the VA to publicly disclose those agreements and the requirements needed for South Jersey veterans to receive dialysis treatments locally.
Last week LoBiondo called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki amid additional reports of mistreatment of veterans at VA hospitals and facilities across the country. The VA Inspector General's report released earlier this week detailed recent allegations that VA health clinics used inappropriate scheduling practices to help boost their overall performance, affecting 1,700 veterans at the Phoenix VA Medical Center alone.
"Each day more revelations surface about the horrific treatment our veterans have received, yet President Obama continues to keep Secretary Shinseki at the helm of the VA. There are no words to justify the disrespect some veterans have received and no action short of Secretary Shinseki's dismissal that will begin to repair the extensive breach of trust with those who sacrificed so much for our country," reiterated LoBiondo.