By Monsignor William J. Linder
They have sacrificed greatly for our country and now our veterans sadly find themselves, in the words of one report, “at risk of being lost or forgotten.” The scandal that has engulfed VA hospitals nationwide is shameful and should be an embarrassment to every American.
There is no excuse for treating our veterans like second-class citizens, putting them on waiting lists for health care. We now know that many have died waiting for life-saving care.
Here at New Community, we have taken an active role in helping and supporting our veterans. Although we have no formal relationship with the VA, we have responded enthusiastically to requests from doctors at the East Orange facility looking to place homeless veterans ready to be discharged. Many of these men and women, I am proud to say, are now living lives of dignity and comfort in New Community senior buildings.
A Better Life, New Community’s planned supportive housing residence for the chronically homeless, was also conceived with veterans in mind. Can you imagine a Vietnam War veteran being afraid to go to a shelter because the atmosphere is just too violent? This is a sad reality in our urban areas. A Better Life will offer veterans and other chronically homeless a safe, secure living environment in Newark where they can live independently, while still receiving the essential mental health services many require.
Although A Better Life was first introduced two years ago, bureaucracy has delayed the groundbreaking. But things are now moving along. I believe God will be the final judge, holding those accountable who made our veterans wait so long for this much needed facility. I believe no veteran should face an unreasonable wait time for health care either and should be able to access private doctors outside of the VA who are enrolled as providers for programs like Medicare.
We can and must do better by our vets. The waiting game must end. For illness will continue to claim lives if we do not hasten the care of those whose service to our country we say that we treasure so deeply.