Two bills to improve healthcare for veterans were approved unanimously by New Jersey's Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and a vote by the full Senate is scheduled for December 19.
Sponsored by Senators Jeff Van Drew and Patrick Diegnan, the bills would provide funding to ensure appropriate transportation for veterans traveling to VA hospitals and remove the requirement that residents of state-operated veterans' nursing homes pay for transportation to doctor appointments outside of the facility.
Among other things, the transportation provided to veterans would have functioning bathroom facilities. According to Sen. Van Drew, his committee "has been pushing for a pilot program in our area to allow veterans to get treatment at community hospitals covered by the VA," but that requires approval by the federal government. Pending approval of that program, he said the new bill "will improve circumstances for our residents."
The second bill addresses the costs to veterans who live in state-operated nursing home who choose to see a doctor other than the one provided at the facility. Currently, veterans are charged a fee for transportation to a doctor outside the nursing home.
Still pending is a bill sponsored by Sen. Van Drew to provide "veterans diversion courts" in New Jersey, which is one of only 12 states in the nation that do not have veterans courts. That bill was passed unanimously by the Senate's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee at a hearing in Trenton on June 9, 2016.