Legislation Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Vince Mazzeo, Bob Andrzejczak and Raj Mukherji sponsored to help New Jersey veterans access much-needed health services was signed into law on Monday.
The new law (A-3749) requires the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to establish a program for travel to medical counseling appointments for service-connected conditions approved by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Many veterans are unable to take advantage of helpful treatment programs in New Jersey because of the difficulty in arranging transportation,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “This law will promote transportation assistance to veterans in order to ensure our veterans have the access to quality care they deserve.”
“Counseling programs are vital for many of our veterans, who sacrificed so much serving our country,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Unfortunately, getting to these programs can prove difficult for many veterans, so the least we can do is create a program to ensure they can travel to attend these programs.”
“Having programs for our veterans is important, but our veterans need to be able to travel to them for them to be of value, which can be a difficult task for many,” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland), who is a disabled U.S. Army veteran wounded in Iraq. “If we truly want to help veterans, we need to ensure they can take full advantage of the programs there to help them, so that’s the goal of this law.”
“Making sure our veterans can get to the programs they need is basic common sense,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
“Veterans in treatment programs who need counseling programs deserve basic services, especially when it can be easily accomplished.”
Under the law, the program would reimburse qualified veterans who pay for their own travel costs for public transportation or for using a private vehicle. The reimbursement for the use of a private vehicle would be on a per mile basis. The reimbursement would be made if state or federal funds are available. The law specifies that a veteran would not be reimbursed for any travel cost paid by an existing state or federal program, or for using a for-hire transportation service unless the veteran needs the service due to a federally-certified service-connected injury or disability that prevents the veteran from operating a private vehicle.
The department must also develop a system to monitor such reimbursements.
The law requires the department to develop the program in cooperation with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The law also requires NJ Transit to provide proof of travel to a qualified veteran so the veteran could get reimbursed for the travel.