BARNEGAT/WARETOWN, NJ – Barnegat and Ocean Township both passed resolutions this month, calling on the federal government to move forward with a new VA clinic in Ocean County. Area veterans who should have access to services in Brick experience long waits for medical appointments and care. Plans to update the facility were delayed for the second time earlier this year.

“Ocean County is home to over 40,000 veterans, the largest population in the state of New Jersey,” said Barnegat Committeewoman Linda Kropf. “The James J. Howard Veterans’ Outpatient Clinic on Route 70 in Brick is currently one of the busiest in the state and serves three to four times as a majority of other VA clinics in New Jersey.”

According to Kropf, the Brick VA clinic was initially built to benefit approximately 5,000 patients, and current services almost triple that amount. She said that veterans in Ocean County had been underserved for years and deserve better.

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“Delays in the federal government’s plan to bring a new facility to Ocean County are unacceptable,” Kropf continued. “…The resolution encourages and supports Congressman Chris Smith and Congressman Andy Kim, and the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders in their work to expedite the process of building a new VA clinic in Ocean County.”

The resolution passed by Ocean Township called upon the federal government to end what it termed the needless delays in moving forward with the new VA Clinic in Ocean County.

“The facility in Ocean County is critical for the care of our veterans, many of whom are elderly and frail,” the Ocean Township resolution states.

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution of its own last month in support of a new Veteran’s Clinic in Ocean County. Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari and Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to Ocean County Veteran’s Service Bureau, also sent a letter to Smith and Kim. While acknowledging the clinic is a federal project, the freeholders pledged any assistance the county could provide.

“Ocean County never forgets our veterans,” Little said. We will work shoulder-to-shoulder with our Congressional representatives to ensure that this new clinic is built in Ocean County.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the cancellation of the lease for the Brick Community-Based Outpatient Clinic on May 1, 2020.  In response to a letter request from Kim, the VA said it was prepared to award the contract in early April. The lease procurement process needed to start again from scratch when the “awardee withdrew their office to lease space.”

As the third congressional district representative, Kim represents parts of Ocean County, including all of Barnegat and Ocean Township. He met with the VA’s Construction and Facilities Management (CFM) Deputy Tony Costa, Deputy Executive Director for CFM; Scott MacRae, Associate Executive Director, Office of Real Property back in May of 2019.

By November of 2019, Kim pressed the VA for answers related to the Brick facility. He previously toured the VA clinic and expressed concerns brought to him by veterans experiencing a delay in care. Some of the stories appear on the congressman’s website.

When news that the lease was canceled a second time broke, Smith wrote a letter to Secretary Robert Wilke regarding “the extraordinarily disappointing announcement.”

 Kim joined other members of the house from both parties requesting that Secretary explain the delayed leasing issues. In the letter, members state, “…the VA continues to struggle with its major leases almost a full year after the VA OIG issued its report. The VA has not awarded leases for three major facilities (Honolulu, Hawaii; Brick, New Jersey; and Cobb County, Georgia), and the VA has not moved into at least 19 additional facilities. As a result, only 3 of the 25 facilities approved by Congress in 2014 are currently serving our nation’s veterans.”

Veterans who reside in the third congressional district can join Kim in a telephone town hall on Thursday, July 23rd, at 5:30pm.   Congressman Mark Takano, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will also be on the call to answer questions.

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