U.S. Senate kills plan to close some N.J. veterans health facilities and expand others

Published: Jun. 27, 2022

Key U.S. senators on Monday killed a proposal that would restructure the Veterans Affairs Department’s health care system and included creating a new medical center near Camden, closing a clinic in Paterson and forcing veterans with spinal cord injuries to travel to the Bronx rather than East Orange.

“This is a great day,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who fought to save the Paterson clinic.

The bipartisan group of 12 senators, led by Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jon Tester, D-Montana, said they would refuse to confirm any nominees to a commission tasked with reviewing the Veterans Affairs proposal, thus killing the entire process.

“As senators, we share a commitment to expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to America’s veterans,” the senators said in a statement.

Since the proposals “are not reflective of that goal, and would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage,” the lawmakers said, “this process does not have our support and will not move forward.”

The plan to overhaul the health care system was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump.

Federal employee union leaders said the proposals would shift veterans in need of medical care to private clinics rather than government-run health facilities, while agency officials said they wanted a system to better reflect the needs of current veterans with facilities located where they’re living now.

Under the proposal, New Jersey veterans would have seen a new medical center in or near Camden, while health care services at the Wilmington, Delaware, medical center that currently treats South Jersey residents would be scaled back.

Treatment for spinal cord injuries would have been shifted from the East Orange medical center to the Bronx, which the VA said would better accommodate a declining number of veterans who need such treatment.

And the Paterson clinic would have closed as the number of patients it served was shrinking. The Hackensack clinic, eight miles away, would have replaced it.

“These veterans served our great country and the last thing any veterans deserve is seeing their health care diluted or diverted,” said Pascrell, D-9th Dist. “Those relying on our VA clinic in Paterson can breathe a sigh of relief.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-06-28 02:49:53 -0700