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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5a)

Gottheimer announces fix for veterans to access services at ImageCare Centers throughout New Jersey, instead of having to drive to the East Orange VA facility

Gottheimer praises veterans group for their work and partnership


Above: Gottheimer today outside the Sussex VA clinic and Newton ImageCare Center.

NEWTON, NJ – Today, Thursday, October 15, 2020, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced that veterans in Northwestern New Jersey would finally be able to receive referrals for health care services at the Newton ImageCare Center — much closer to home — instead of having to drive more than an hour to the East Orange VA Medical Center for services like MRIs, mammograms, ultrasounds, and cancer screenings.

This announcement follows more than a year of work from Gottheimer, working closely with veterans groups, to help cut red tape and bureaucracy between New Jersey VA Health Care Director, the VA Community Care Network, and health care delivery provider Optum.

As a result, veterans all throughout the State of New Jersey will be able to receive referrals for health care services at any ImageCare Center in their community. In the Fifth District, that includes the Newton, Franklin, and Vernon locations.

Gottheimer stood today with local veteran groups and local officials outside the medical complex that houses the Sussex VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), as well as the Newton ImageCare Center the veterans now have access to for care.

Previously, veterans in Sussex and Warren Counties were unable to receive radiological care and screenings in the CBOC medical complex and had to drive more than an hour to other facilities for radiological services. Gottheimer heard from local veterans service organization members that many sick veterans who require specialized care have difficulty traveling these distances.

“After visiting this CBOC with the American Legion, and hearing about the maddening fact that many were unable to receive referrals to the ImageCare facility literally next door, it became one of my top priorities in my fight to improve their access to care,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) said. “My goal all along has been to provide greater access to care, better care, faster care — the care that they deserve. I’m proud to say, today, we are delivering on those goals. There is truly no commitment more sacred than the one we all have to those who’ve served to protect our country — especially the 32,000 veterans and their families who call the Fifth District home.”

Since ImageCare Centers have been added to veterans’ care network, 74 veterans throughout the Fifth District have been able to book appointments at ImageCare Centers in Newton, Vernon, and Franklin.

“After meeting with the Congressman and explaining our situation about the things here in Newton for veterans, he immediately went to work on our behalf, and he kept us in the loop every step of the way,” said Tony Gallopo, past New Jersey American Legion Vice Commander. “Thanks to the work of Congressman Gottheimer and the cooperation with the New Jersey VA Health Care System, we now have a contract with the Newton ImageCare Center. Now, our veterans can go a couple of days before their appointment and book an X-ray, get their blood-work done, and, three or four days later, when they have their physical scheduled, they have all the answers the doctor needs, so they can start the physical instead of waiting six weeks. This is the way it should be done — the way it’s done with private insurance. On behalf of the veterans of Sussex and Warren Counties who utilize this community-based outpatient clinic, we’d like to thank Congressman Gottheimer for always having our backs, we are very grateful.”

Gottheimer was joined today by Harry Kaplan, Commander of the Newton American Legion Post #86; Tony Gallopo, former Newton American Legion Commander and former State Vice Commander; Newton American Legion Post #86 officer Ray Dalton; Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell; Jay Christy, Sussex County Community College Veterans Coordinator; Newton Mayor Sandra Diglio; Dr. Robert Ranley, founding partner of ImageCare Centers; Dr. Richard Snellings, VP of ImageCare Centers; Dr. Steven Lee, founding partner of ImageCare Centers; Dale  Horlacher, C.O.O. of ImageCare Centers; Connie Perna, Practice Manager at the ImageCare Centers.

Watch today’s announcement HERE.

Below: Gottheimer stands with local Sussex and Warren County veterans today.

Below: Gottheimer with (left to right) former Newton American Legion Commander and former State Vice Commander Tony Gallopo, Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell, Newton American Legion Post #86 officer Ray Dalton, and Commander of the Newton American Legion Post #86 Harry Kaplan.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

I’m here today because there is no commitment more sacred than the one our nation has to those who have served and protected our country. I am proud to represent every corner of the Fifth District, and one of my bedrock responsibilities is to always have the backs of those who’ve had ours. 

The Fifth District is home to 32,000 veterans and their families.

Standing up for all of them, to me, is one of the most important parts of my oath. 

I’m grateful for the work being done on the ground, throughout North Jersey, to help our most vulnerable residents.

I also want to take a moment to thank our front-line health care workers, first responders, and law enforcement officers who continue to make sacrifices to keep us safe and healthy, as well as everyone who’s working to care for our communities and keep our economy going.  

As many of us have learned, this pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities in our nation’s health systems, and we must do everything in our power to make sure that all Americans — especially our veterans — get the proper care that they deserve. 

As you know, the Sussex Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) here in Newton opened right around the time I took office, and we have been fighting for expanded access to services — especially in-person mental health care — for local veterans ever since. 

When the Sussex CBOC first opened, it appeared to be the only VA facility in New Jersey without in-person mental health services. That is why I teamed up with Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen to urge the NJ VA Health Care Director to establish in-person psychiatric care right here in Sussex. After working closely with our local veterans and many of the advocates here today, the NJ VA system began to offer these appointments here in Newton in April of 2018.

Since then, we’ve continued the fight to increase and expand these services, In October of last year, I met with the Director of the VA New Jersey Health Care System, Vincent Immiti to discuss expanding this critical mental health care, as well as my serious concerns about wait times and drive times for veterans in Sussex County who have had to drive an hour or more to get access to health care services at their facility in East Orange — or coordinate to have their relatives or loved ones drive them there. Unfortunately, after driving more than an hour, many veterans I’ve spoken with told me they were met with cancelled appointments.

That is simply unacceptable.

I’ve also been fighting to address other concerns I’ve heard from our local veterans groups. I’ve brought up these ongoing issues with the Director of the VA New Jersey, and we’ve discussed the need for access to closer doctors, hospitals, and other facilities, such as New Bridge Medical Center; creating access to a women veterans-focused clinic right here in North Jersey; and making more doctors available to take mental health care appointments in Newton and in Bergen. 

I’m pleased to announce today that we have made incredible progress in our fight for better access to care.

Today, building on our efforts to improve veterans access to healthcare in New Jersey, I am announcing that after working with the VA Community Care Network and health care delivery provider Optum, eligible North Jersey veterans will now be able to receive referrals for community care at ImageCare Centers all across the Fifth District, allowing for faster care, shorter travel times, and improved access to the benefits they fought for and deserve. 

After visiting the Newton CBOC with the American Legion, and hearing about the maddening fact that many were unable to receive referrals to the ImageCare facility literally next door, it became one of my top priorities in my fight to improve veterans’ access to care. 

Nearly a year ago, the NJ VA Health Care Director told us the Newton ImageCare Center would be enrolled in the referral system, so our veterans could go there to receive care. However, when we checked with delivery provider Optum, it wasn’t showing up. 

So, after months of working to bring together both Optum and ImageCare, and pointing out that this access to referrals was not showing up for our local veterans, we finally fixed the issue, cut through the red tape, and broke through the bureaucracy standing in the way.

Since ImageCare has been added to the network, 74 veterans throughout the Fifth District have been able to book appointments at ImageCare Centers in Newton, Vernon, and Franklin.

With this new access, our veterans will be able to have access to services like MRIs for brain and spine scans to address chronic pain, injuries, tumors, and dementia; CT and PET scans; mammograms to check for breast cancer; ultrasounds, bone density scans; calcium scores; checks for lung cancer; and there’s also a nuclear medical study to track cancer going on in nearby Sparta.  

Overall, their imaging scan services will focus on chronic pain and cancer — something that I’m glad our veterans here in the Fifth District will have greater access to addressing.

I would not be here today without the incredible advocacy of our veteran groups, including the American Legion and the Sussex-Warren Veterans Coalition, who have all fought tirelessly day in and day out to make sure all of their comrades have access to the health care they deserve.

I’m proud to have stood with them all and to help make this possible. Together, our dedication and our fight together are all paying off. 

This kind of work is paying off elsewhere as well, where we were able to cut through red tape, earlier this year, to get our veterans access to referrals to Bergen New Bridge Medical Center.

My goal all along has been to provide greater access to care, better care, faster care — the care that they deserve. I’m proud to say, today, we are delivering on those goals.

Of course, there is always more work to do, to protect our disabled or senior veterans, and all our seniors in long-term care facilities, especially in light of our ongoing crisis.

Fighting for our veterans, who put their lives on the line for us, will always be a number one priority for me. And the same goes for all our seniors — those who paved the way for future generations.  

That’s why I’m not only fighting for access to better care, but to make sure we’re prepared for future spikes of COVID-19.

I know we are all familiar with the reports of COVID outbreaks at the state-run New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus and in facilities all across the State. When the news first broke on the issues in Paramus, and similarly with facilities like Andover Subacute, I was on the phone with the Governor and reaching out to the federal VA, demanding an investigation, calling for people to be held accountable, and getting the VA and the National Guard to send in medics and personnel to assist. I also worked to get local hospitals and doctors in to help, and worked to improve communication with families.

I have continued to demand answers and accountability from the State DMVA which operates the Paramus home, on behalf of all residents, veterans, and their families. 

I continue to believe that this facility needs a change in leadership to ensure that such a disaster never happens, with a second wave of the virus in this fall or winter, or ever again.

To address these issues and more, I’ve also introduced a bipartisan bill with Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) — the Nursing Home Pandemic Protection Act — to require nursing homes report communicable diseases, infections, and potential outbreaks to the CDC; that residents and their families be kept informed of infections inside the facilities; that facilities have a crisis plan in place to manage an outbreak; and a stockpile of PPE on hand.

As we work through these difficult times together, we must always have the backs of those who have had ours: the brave men and women who have served our nation and defended our freedoms.

As I’ve said time and again, there is truly no commitment more sacred than the one we all have to those who’ve served to protect our country — especially the 32,000 veterans and their families who call the Fifth District home.

To that end, that is why I am fully committed to cutting through red tape, breaking through bureaucracy, and getting our brave veterans the care they need and deserve — all closer to home, easier to access — to improve their quality of life.

I will continue to fight for our veterans to ensure they have the benefits, care, and recognition they deserve. This is something we can all get behind.

If we continue to fight for those values, I’m sure that our best days will always be ahead of us. 

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless these United States of America. 

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