In a sweeping response to mounting complaints, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs removes management of its three South Jersey community-based outpatient clinics (CBOC) from the Wilmington VA Medical Center, and launches plans for expanded staffing and services.

Congressman Frank LoBiondo testifies in favor of a Sandy funding bill
Congressman Frank LoBiondo testifies in favor of a Sandy funding bill (CSPAN)

The CBOCs undergoing extensive administrative and hiring actions are in Northfield, Vineland and Cape May. Changes take effect Monday, May 9.

VA Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Operations and Management Janet Murphy outlined several additional changes Friday morning in Northfield.

She was accompanied by shore Congressman Frank Lobiondo (R-2) and U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Corey Booker (D-NJ), who issued a no-confidence statement in the Wilmington VA Center's leadership:

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

"As our veterans served their nation with bravery and honor at home and abroad, it is our duty to ensure they receive the best care and treatment here at home. The medical care South Jersey veterans have been receiving from local VA facilities is inconsistent and deteriorating in quality. While medical and support staff on the ground at South Jersey CBOCs do an outstanding job to care for our veterans, it is clear they do not have the resources, manpower or support from their leadership needed to consistently provide the highest quality care. We no longer have confidence in the leadership at the Wilmington VA Medical Center to oversee operations at South Jersey CBOCs to ensure our veterans are properly cared for and treated with respect and dignity."

Beginning Monday, the three CBOCs will undergo supervision by the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 4.

VISN 4 will review hardship requests submitted by veterans seeking health care through local, non-VA means, including previously-denied requests.

Education and guidelines will be issued, clarifying the ability of responders to meet veterans' requests for services at the Wilmington or Philadelphia VA centers.

Cory Booker
Cory Booker (Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

The VA intends to add four behavioral health staffers in the form of a Suicide Prevention Coordinator SW, SA Social Worker, SW Case Manager and Psychiatric APRN.

Also to be added are six medical positions - two registered nurses, two LPNs, and two MSAs. The position of on-site clinical manager is being created for the Northfield CBOC.

In an effort to increase urgent and same-day services in psychiatry and psychology five days a week, behavioral health services will be added vila tele-mental health from the Wilmington VA and the Pittsburgh VA tele-mental hub.

Additionally, VA plans to extend hours of operations at the CBOCs, after surveying veterans for their preferences.

"These actions are merely the first steps to get our CBOCs the leadership they deserve. Throughout the coming weeks and months, we expect constant communication and consultation with the VA on the progress they are making and obstacles they are encountering. We appreciate their ongoing cooperation and commitment to right these wrongs for South Jersey veterans," the lawmakers said in prepared remarks.

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