State lawmakers have pushed for a number bills in recent weeks to aid veterans living in North Jersey.
One such bill authored by State Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-21) would help Garden State veterans earn credits in acquiring a nursing license.
The new legislation was approved by the Senate Military and Veterans’ Committee which would make use of currently trained and experienced veterans capable of filling the critical shortages of nurses within the Garden State, due in part to the pandemic.
Jobs for Vets
According Bramnick, the bill will addresses two important issues in the State’s healthcare workforce.
“It will help fill the growing void of nurses as many trained professionals continue to leave the field, and it provides an attractive career path for qualified veterans,” said Bramnick. “It is a perfect solution, fortifying the state’s healthcare industry that has been hard-hit by the exodus of crucial workers since the pandemic.”
Bill Would Fill Critical Nursing Shortages Within N.J.
The 69-year-old lawmaker’s bill titled (A-2722/S-3191) would allow honorably discharged veterans to complete the Army Practical Nurse Program or a program equally equivalent, in obtaining a diploma from an accredited nursing school approved by the New Jersey board of Nursing.
Moreover, according to recent data, the approved legislation couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, considering that an estimated 100,000 nurses in 2021 left the nursing industry within the United States. Additionally, from 2019 to 2021, the nursing profession shrunk by nearly 2%.
The Garden State alone lost nearly 11,000 nurses within that same three-year period, and according to industry insiders, by 2030 New Jersey will have one of the largest staffing shortages within the country.
“There aren’t enough students enrolled in nursing schools to make up for the thousands who are burned out and retiring from their jobs,” Bramnick said. “Veterans can be trained as reinforcements who can step into these professional positions in a productive and rewarding career.”
Mental Health Care
Another key piece of legislation benefiting New Jersey veterans, introduced by State Sen. Jean Stanfield (R-8), centers on providing psychiatric care for struggling veterans suffering from debilitating service-related emotional issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill (S-2558), endorsed by the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would make it easier for veterans to qualify for assistance and treatment costs by eliminating the benefits they receive from being calculated in deciding their personal payment obligations.
“Almost 400,000 veterans receiving military disability payments, pensions, and other benefits make their homes here in New Jersey,” said Stanfield. “An estimated 5% of them live in poverty, and more than 550 are homeless.”
“On top of that, thousands are living with service-related challenges including post-traumatic stress disorder,” added the South Jersey lawmaker. “This is unacceptable. Well-earned military benefits should not be an obstacle to help.”
Treatment of PTSD
Currently the law governing mental health issues within the Garden State holds adult veterans suffering from mental illness liable for the full cost of treatment along with any additional expenses, such as hospitalization, until the individual has depleted all of their health insurance benefits or medical assistance program coverage.
“Veterans should not be avoiding counseling and treatment because they are afraid, they can’t afford to pay for it,” said Stanfield.
The balance of the bill would then be calculated according to a preset sliding fee scale established for charity care. Military benefits are included in the calculation to determine the veteran’s personal liability.
“We want to ensure our veterans can receive the treatment and care they earned by service in our military,” Stanfield said. “They never abandon our nation, and New Jersey cannot abandon them now.”
A third bill winding through the Trenton is S-1871, authored by State Sen. Anthony Bucco. The legislation would help veterans suffering from service-related head injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
“We have never seen so many veterans return home with such severe combat-related conditions,” said Bucco. “Some help is currently available, but it is clear our state must do more for the men and women who are struggling with often invisible injuries.”
“This bill will make it easier and more convenient for our wounded warriors to access everything from transportation, to help with endless paperwork filings, guidance, and counseling.”
The bill would require the Adjutant General of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to increase and expand available services to qualified veterans seeking treatment, along with improving programs and streamlining access in evaluating potentially devastating brain conditions related to military service.
Currently, DMVA offers some assistance to those service-members suffering from service-related PTSD. Bucco’s bill, however, would expand those services for the estimated 20% of veterans currently falling-through-the-cracks with traumatic brain injuries.
“It will never be acceptable to look at what the state is doing for these men and women and say, ‘that’s good enough’,” said the Morris County lawmaker. “We must continue to look for ways to do more to help those who volunteered to serve our nation as they battle to re-establish some form of normalcy in their lives. We owe them no less.”