NJ Federal lawmakers push to continue vets’ mental health line
The Pentagon's decision to pull the financial plug on a Rutgers-based mental health helpline for veterans draws outrage from New Jersey lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Shore-based Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-2) joined six Democrats in signing Senator Cory Booker's (D-NJ) message to the Defense Department to think twice before terminating funds for the Vets4Warriors call center.
Democrat Representatives Bill Pascrell, Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Donald Payne Jr., and Donald Norcross added their signatures along with Senator Robert Menendez.
The helpline, run by the Rutgers Behavioral Health Center in Piscataway, provides 'round-the-clock, confidential peer support for veterans, active duty service men and women, and their families.
Forty veterans and four licensed mental health clincians are employed in the program, which has reportedly fielded more than 130,000 inquiries since December 2011.
The missive is the latest salvo in a skirmish that started back in May. Congressmen Tom MacArthur and Frank Pallone joined LoBiondo and Pascrell in urging Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to reconsider the decision.
In June, the Senate shot down Booker's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have continued federal funding for the center.
"We believe that the DoD decision not to re-compete the Vets4Warriors contract was made without consideration for alternatives that would leave the program operational," the message reads, in part.
"Since the decision was made not to re-compete the contract that funded Vets4Warriors, we are asking that DoD consider all avenues of subcontracting opportunities for Vets4Warriors."