SAYING THAT continued delays in the federal government’s plan to bring a new Veterans Administration clinic to Ocean County are unacceptable, the Board of Chosen Freeholders has vowed to work with Congressional leaders to “cut through the red tape” and do whatever is necessary to fast track the facility.
“Our veterans were there for us when we needed them and now we will be here for them,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.
The VA has said that a new facility is needed to replace the aging James J. Howard clinic in Brick Township.
“Parking especially remains a problem,” Vicari said. “The facility and the location are simply too small.”
While plans for the clinic seemed to be moving ahead, problems with the federal bidding process led the VA to cancel a contract to build the clinic.
“We cannot let bureaucratic problems derail this important project,” Vicari said.
Vicari said he was contacted by a disabled Vietnam War veteran recently asking the Freeholders to intervene personally with the VA.
“We are working closely with Congressman Chris Smith, who is the senior member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, and Rep. Andy Kim to fast track this project,” he said.
Vicari said he knows from personal experience how important the VA clinic is to local residents.
“My father was a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge,” he said. “We made frequent trips to the clinic. Having a facility located in Ocean County is critical to our veterans and our senior citizens.
Freeholder Gerry P. Little said the county is home to one of the largest veterans’ populations in the state, with more than 40,000 veterans living throughout the county’s 33 municipalities.
“Ocean County never forgets our veterans. We will work shoulder-to-shoulder with our Congressional representatives to ensure that this new clinic is built in Ocean County,” he said.
Little, who is liaison to the Ocean County Veteran’s Service Bureau, said the VA needs to explain the reasons behind the latest delay.
“We have been patient, but now it is time to move ahead and get this project done,” he said.
Little’s father is a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific Theater.
Vicari and Little on May 26 sent a letter to Smith and Kim pledging them any assistance the county can offer.
“This may be a federal project, but we want our veterans to know that this Board of Freeholders is doing everything it can to see this plan to fruition,” Vicari said.