HEALTH

NJ Launches Health Care Option for Active Duty, Retired Military

President Trump is scheduled to sign a bill extending a stop-gap program that allows veterans to access medical care from private doctors at private hospitals until the new Veterans Affairs secretary develops a long-term plan that could let vets sidestep the beleaguered VA entirely. But here in New Jersey, vets — along with active duty servicemen and women — will have another choice. NJTV News Correspondent Erin Delmore has the details.

Delmore: New Jersey lawmakers are celebrating a new partnership they say will increase health care options for active service military, veterans and their families. Today Cooper University Health Care and Deborah Heart and Lung Center launched HeroCare Connect in the shadow of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. They say it’ll allow local service members and their loved ones to see a health care specialist within 24 to 48 hours. The initiative is meant to supplement primary health care services that are already available on base and will be available to veterans who access their primary care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congressman Tom MacArthur: I want to congratulate Cooper University Hospital and Deborah Heart and Lung for a critical initiative, for working together without government telling them they ought to, but coming together as two institutions that want to serve our men and women in uniform, both active duty and veterans. And coming together and identifying the need, identifying how to meet the need, identifying how to collaborate together across this entire region.

Gov. Chris Christie: We’ve heard all during the last year a lot of conversation about the dysfunction and lack of service that was being provided by the Veterans Administration around this country and it caused enormous outrage among American citizens who believed the promise that government had made to the military men and women and their families, which is if you serve our country admirably and honorably, then we will take care of you for the rest of your life. The good thing about America is that even when we make mistakes, and clearly things that happened at the VA were big mistakes, the rest of America steps in to help to fill the void that’s created by those mistakes.

Delmore: Now, notably, this health care program is launched by New Jersey lawmakers and runs outside the Veterans Health Administration in the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been criticized for backlogs in care and claims processing. Top VA officials resigned from their posts due to the scandal in 2014.

New Jersey Congressmen Donald Norcross and Tom MacArthur opened an avenue for care outside the VA with the Veterans Freedom of Health Care Act in 2015 allowing veterans to use their VA benefits at a doctor’s office of their choice.