Booker, Menendez Promise Swift Passage of VA Reform Legislation

By David Cruz

In light of the recent scandal involving the treatment of veterans at V-A facilities around the country, a bill to help them secure their credit scores – the stated purpose of today’s press conference – seemed almost trivial by comparison. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker were compelled to address the VA scandal on this, the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

“Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators led by the chairman of the veterans affairs committee announced that there is a deal to give the acting secretary of veterans affairs more authority to fire senior officials and expand access to healthcare for veterans on long waiting lists or those who are living long distances from VA facilities,” announced Menendez.

While New Jersey’s VA facilities – like the hospital in East Orange – get generally good grades for patient care, the big issue here is the long travel times that particularly south Jersey veterans face to access care. Booker says the current laws require veterans to use only VA facilities.

“Right now it’s a real big jump to use a different facility,” added Booker. “You know, if my folks sit in traffic, travel three or four hours, that’s unacceptable to me and we should be making other allowances for them and that’s what this bill aims to address.”

On a day meant to commemorate the sacrifice of service members Booker and Menendez say they will do their part to honor that sacrifice by making sure that this legislation gets introduced and passed quickly.

“It starts off as a bi-partisan effort,” said Menendez. “Senator McCain is a distinguished veteran himself and Senator Sanders, as the chair of the veterans committee, has the ability to move it through committee and I know that Harry Reid, the majority leader is committed to bringing this to the floor.”

Veterans today said those who sacrificed deserve the best care their country can provide.

“It disturbs me,” said retired Seaman Andy Vyniski. “I can see the bureaucracy, the not caring of the people that are there. If they knew what these guys went through; it’s a good thing I’m not in politics or anything like that because I get emotional over these issues you know.”

The lawmakers say reforms to VA management are only part of a solution for a troubled veteran’s administration that they say has failed to effectively serve those whose service should be most honored.