Currently, veterans in Sussex County have to travel at least an hour to access care, as the closest VA clinic in New Jersey is in Morris Plains. There is also a clinic in Port Jervis, NY.
An outpatient clinic for veterans that was slated to open in the summer, and then in September, now has no official opening date, and officials remain mum on when or even if it will become operational.
President-elect Trump made overhaul of the Veteran’s Administration, which has been plagued by scandal and inefficiency, a cornerstone of his campaign. As with most things Republican, however, rather than improve a public service, the solution touted by the people Trump is considering to head the VA is to privatize veteran’s healthcare.
Most mainstream veterans organizations want to keep Bob McDonald, a Republican, at the helm, saying in the past two years he has done a remarkable job of turning the agency around.
Trump, though, wants to shake things up, and is looking at candidates such as Re. Jeff Miller, Fox News’s Peter Hegseth and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
All are advocates of privatization. For example, instead of streamlining the agency to reduce wait times (the biggest complaint), one proposal is to allow veterans with ID to access private healthcare at government expense. Veterans organizations fear that would drain resources from VA health care, acknowledged to be among the best in the nation, and lead to eventual dismantling of the system.
Given the lack of interest in improving existing VA facilities on the part of the incoming administration, regardless of need, it may be that the proposed Newton clinic won’t see the light of day, and Sussex County’s veterans will continue to have to commute at least an hour to access basic health care. With 47 percent of veterans nationwide age 65 and over, the burden is obvious.