RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New Legislation At Veterans Day Ceremony to Support Veterans’ Homes and Mental Health

Nov 10, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer announcing new action to support veterans.

ORADELL, N.J. — Today, Friday, November 10, 2023, at the Oradell Veterans Day Ceremony, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), announced new bipartisan legislation to honor and support the brave men and women who have proudly served and protected our nation. The two new pieces of legislation will support veterans’ mental health care and ensure veterans have an advocate in every state run veteran’s home across New Jersey and the county.

The Veterans Emergency and Timely Support (VETS) Act will:

  • Require a resident advocate at every veteran’s home to be a direct line of contact for veterans.
  • Ensure that veterans have access to an advocate who can immediately receive any concerns and respond and elevate their needs to the necessary levels. 
  • Help protect against the failures at the Paramus & Menlo Park Veterans Home during the COVID-19 pandemic, where one of the greatest tragedies New Jersey has ever witnessed occurred.

The Hope, Empowerment, and Lifesaving Programs (HELP) for Veterans Act will:

  • Help prevent delays when veterans need critical mental health support and treatment.
  • Provide grants to help our nation’s incredible nonprofits to coordinate suicide prevention services for veterans, active duty service members, and their families.
  • Supported programs include provision of clinical services for emergency treatment, case management services, peer support services, VA benefits assistance, assistance with emergent needs relating to health care services, and more.

“There is nothing more important in this job than my responsibility to always have the backs of those who have stepped forward to protect us. After sacrificing so much, our veterans should never struggle to get the care, recognition, and respect they have rightfully earned. We can never forget that freedom isn’t free — it takes all of us working together, and remembering that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Only China, Russia, Iran, and Hamas win when we attack one another,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I’ve been proud, since my first days in Congress, to lead both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to care for and protect our veterans – and I will never stop fighting for them. Today, as part of that ongoing commitment, I’m proud to support those who have made constant sacrifices protecting our freedoms.”

Gottheimer was joined by Oradell Mayor Dianne Didio, Councilmen Stephen Carevale, Michael Staff, and Robert Jannicelli, Bergen County Director of Veteran Services Shaun Hutchinson, and Oradell Borough Historian Pat Schuber.

Video of today’s announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer announcing new action to support veterans.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning everyone. I’d first like to thank Oradell Mayor Didio for inviting me to join you today as we honor the brave men and women who have proudly served and protected our nation. To all of our service members, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for putting your lives on the line to defend our freedom, our families, and the greatest democracy the world has ever seen. 

Today, active duty servicemembers are in harm’s way in the Middle East, as war wages after the vicious attack on Americans and our key ally Israel on October 7. Americans and others remain hostage, as Iranian-backed terrorists continue to fire rockets at Americans and Israel. Our service members risk their lives every day to protect our freedoms and keep us safe. 

There is nothing more important in this job than my responsibility to always have the backs of those who have stepped forward to protect us. After sacrificing so much, you should never struggle to get the care, recognition, and respect you have rightfully earned. I always tell my kids that when we see a veteran, we should always thank you for your service. For what you did for the greatest country in the world, where we can speak our mind on the street corner, practice the religion we choose, open a business, and live in a great community like this one. Everyone wants to live here, not in China, because of what we have. 

But freedom isn’t free — it takes all of us working together, and remembering that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Only China, Russia, Iran, and Hamas win when we attack one another. 

On Veterans Day, we also remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, including Oradell’s own, Sergeant David Solinas, who was an 82nd Airborne Paramedic and a 101st Airborne Flight Medic in the U.S. Army. He sadly died at the age of 23, along with eight service members, in a medevac training mission on March 29, 2023. I’d like to take a moment of silence to remember their service and the ultimate sacrifices they and others made. 

I’ve been proud, since my first days in Congress, to lead both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to care for and protect our veterans – and I will never stop fighting for you. Whether that’s at the VA, a mental health issue, or helping a veteran get a job or support when you come back home.

Today, as part of that ongoing commitment, I’m proud to announce two new pieces of legislation I’m leading to support our veterans.

First, I’ll be introducing the bipartisan Veterans Emergency and Timely Support Act, also known as the VETS Act —  that will require a resident advocate at every veteran’s home in New Jersey and across the country. This advocate will be a direct line of contact and a voice for our veterans, ensuring that every day they have access to someone who can immediately help with any concerns and respond and elevate their needs to the necessary levels. 

This federal bill is modeled after legislation written by New Jersey State Senators Vin Gopal and Joe Lagana, Assemblywoman Annette Chapparo, and Former Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato. I can’t thank them enough for their leadership.

The failures at the Paramus & Menlo Park Veterans Home during the COVID-19 pandemic were one of the greatest tragedies New Jersey has ever witnessed. We can never let it happen again and must take steps to always protect the health and wellness of our veterans in state homes. 

I stepped in at the moment I learned there was an outbreak affecting our veterans. We brought in the National Guard, more than 50 healthcare workers from the VA, and local medical support. We even helped bring in some of the top infectious disease doctors and physicians in the country for consult with medical staff. When the outbreak first occurred, and before many of us got a phone call from families, many veterans were in the dark and felt they had nowhere to turn. This legislation will help change that. 

Second, I’ll be introducing the bipartisan Hope, Empowerment, and Lifesaving Programs for Veterans Act — also known as the HELP Veterans Act — because no veteran should ever experience a delay when they need critical mental health support and treatment. Far too many veterans are placed on waitlists at local VAs or only offered short-term, limited solutions when they return home from service. This legislation will help fix that. 

In 2021, research found that more than 30,000 active duty personnel and veterans who served in the military after 9/11 died by suicide — compared to the 7,057 service members killed in combat in those same 20 years. That means military suicide rates are four times higher than deaths that occurred during military operations. 

In fact, veterans are at 57 percent higher risk of suicide than those who haven’t served.

The HELP Veterans Act will support nonprofits across Jersey and our country that assist struggling veterans and active duty service members with longer-term quality mental health care, including clinical services, better case management, and peer support. The HELP Veterans Act will provide grants to help local and national nonprofits to help with these services and coordinate suicide prevention services for veterans, active duty service members, and their families. Unfortunately, many of these nonprofits lack the funds they need to expand their programs. This bill helps change that and invest in the care our veterans deserve. 

It is our duty as Americans to not only honor the men and women who serve — all soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and women, and Coast Guardsmen and women — and it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to fight for you and your families when they return. 

These are not red or blue issues — they are red, white, and blue — and we need to work on them together.

I want to make clear to everyone here that my door is always open for any issues that you may have. 

So, this Veterans Day, I honor you, I honor all our veterans and your families, and I thank you for everything that you have done.

Here in the greatest country in the world, we will always take care of our own. That’s the only way to ensure that our best days will always be ahead of us.

God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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