SOUTH PLAINFIELD – The Senate and Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved two bills sponsored by State Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-18, that would pay for transportation for veterans outside of VA hospitals, according to a Nov. 22 press release.  

“This is about treating veterans with compassion and decency. This bill will make sure those who must travel a significant distance to a veterans’ health care facility have an appropriate means of transportation funded by the state,” Diegnan said in the release. “This is the right thing to do for those who have served this country with dignity, in what may be their greatest time of need.”

Bill S-2594 requires the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to create a program paying counties and towns to provide transportation for veterans living outside 30 miles from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical center, the release said.

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According to the release, counties and towns getting the money to transport the veterans would have to use vehicles with a functioning bathroom. The bill allows a county or town to use the money for an existing transportation service it operates, as long as it meets the bill’s requirements, the release said.

The money for the bill would come from a state appropriation of $500,000 in grants for local transportation services to buy vehicles with bathroom facilities, according to the release.

The second bill, S-2592 would pay to transport veterans living in state operated nursing home facilities to their local doctor.

According to the release, Diegnan proposed the bill once the department enforced the policy that charged residents living in these facilities a fee for transportation to a doctor’s office even though the facility had a doctor in-house. The department would pay the costs under the bill from the operation in each of the state’s three long-term care nursing homes for veterans and their spouses, the release said. Those facilities are located in Paramus, Menlo Park, and Vineland, the release said.

“We have to make sure that our state’s policies are not creating obstacles for veterans who are seeking access to health care,” Diegnan said. “This will cover the cost of transportation for some our most vulnerable residents who live in veterans’ homes operated by the state, reinstituting a practice that had previously existed in these facilities.”