Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rep. Lobiondo Wants Some Va Care Privatized

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rep. Lobiondo Wants Some Va Care Privatized

Article excerpt

WILDWOOD - A congressman who represents southern New Jersey pitched a plan Friday to privatize some veterans health care services to grant better access for his constituents, a plan that got a lukewarm reception among North Jersey vets.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., who represents a district that sweeps across South Jersey, made his plea for limited privatizing of Veterans Affairs Department health care services at the state convention of the American Legion. Many South Jersey veterans must travel to Philadelphia or Wilmington, Del., to see a VA specialist; the state's two VA hospitals are in northern New Jersey, at Lyons in Somerset County and East Orange.

The privatization plan follows a scandal that has embroiled the VA concerning a secret waiting list maintained at the Phoenix VA hospital to manipulate wait times and earn bonuses for staff members. Internal VA investigations confirmed the Phoenix allegations and cited similar behavior at VA hospitals across the country. Many veterans reportedly died while waiting for essential VA health care services, the investigations confirmed.

"I'm saddened, sickened and angered with the scandal at the VA and the handling of our veterans," LoBiondo said. "We're realizing that lives were lost, and I believe it is being proven that a conscious decision was made by VA bureaucrats to trade lives for dollars."

The American Legion in early May called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Shinseki ultimately resigned when the allegations were proved to be true in Phoenix and systemwide.

In the most recent VA inspector general report, the Lyons campus was cited as one of 81 hospitals and clinics that needed to be examined further, though there are no specific allegations against the staff there. The East Orange hospital and a VA clinic in Paterson also were reviewed but were not cited for further investigation. …

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