Gottheimer gives update on improving veterans benefits

Public Health. U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer met with veterans outside the Sussex VA clinic, to share an update on the fight to drive down vet wait times, and to ensure vets have access to mental health care.

Oct 02 2019 | 06:15 PM

    Following his VA meeting in East Orange, Gottheimer met with veterans and veteran groups outside the Sussex VA clinic, a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), to share an update.

    Issues covered included, wait times and drive times for veterans, closer access to facilities, female veteran-focused clinic, and 4) more mental health care access in Newton.

    “Today, veterans in North Jersey, including disabled or senior veterans, will leave their homes, and may drive over an hour, only to be met by long wait times, cancelled appointments, and, ultimately, subpar care,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “What they need is greater access to care, better care, faster care -- the care that they deserve. Our veterans have been pushing for referrals to area hospitals so they aren’t stuck in waiting rooms in East Orange, they need more mental health care in Sussex, and we also need the VA here in Jersey to prioritize taking care of brave women who have fought for our country.”

    Gottheimer continued, “To me, one of my most important jobs as a member of Congress is to have the backs of those who have our backs: our men and women who have bravely served our country. I’m glad that I was finally able to meet with the Director today, and I’m looking forward to the VA moving forward on their commitments.”

    Right now, North Jersey veterans are facing long wait times and cancelled appointments at the VA Medical Center in East Orange, NJ. When meeting with Gottheimer a year ago, Director Immiti committed to begin veteran patient referrals to New Bridge Medical Center (NBMC), to provide veterans with greater access to primary, specialty, and mental health care services. To date, New Bridge Medical Center has not received a single veteran patient referral from the VA. Over 1,000 veterans in Bergen County alone have signed a petition urging the VA in New Jersey to begin these referrals.

    In Sussex and Warren Counties, veterans receive mental health care and other services from the Sussex VA Clinic, a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), in Newton, NJ. Currently, the VA is only able to offer in-person psychiatric care about twice a month. With an average of 20 veterans dying by suicide per day in this country, demand for psychiatric care has increased and veterans using the Sussex VA Clinic now require greater access to care. Director Immiti has previously committed to increasing services to weekly psychiatric availability in Newton, but that has yet to occur.

    This is a continuation of Gottheimer's efforts on behalf of veterans in Sussex and Warren Counties, including his help in establishing the mental health care services at the Sussex VA Clinic in April 2018. This push to increase service is in direct response to growing demand.

    With female veterans as the fasted-growing community in the military, some veterans groups feel that women-centered care is lacking in VA facilities in New Jersey. A location for a female veterans-focused Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) facility has been outlined for Secaucus, but veterans are still waiting.

    “As a veteran, I, along with the veterans of Sussex and Warren County, are grateful for the support we have received from Congressman Gottheimer and his focus on addressing the needs and concerns of the veterans,” said Tony Gallopo, Commander of Newton American Legion Post 86 and past State Vice Commander of the American Legion Dept. of New Jersey. “The VA Health Care Director has promised to increase the psychiatrist services at the Sussex clinic, but these service issues have still not been addressed. These concerns even come from the clinic staff, but they can be easily fixed. We need an in-person psychiatrist more than twice a month. If the Director was really concerned about providing quality health care to our veterans, I would think he would want to discuss the issues instead of avoiding the conversation, as he’s done previously.”