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New Jersey hospital to offer veterans priority

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 17, 2014 at 8:55 pm •  Published: June 17, 2014

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Veterans will go to the front of the line at a private New Jersey health care system under a new program being started in response to problems with the federal Veterans Administration's health system.

Under the initiative announced Tuesday, veterans living in the seven southern New Jersey counties are being promised same-day primary care appointments and help from health care navigators at Cooper University Health Care. Veterans would be served at the hospital in Camden and at system clinics in southern New Jersey.

"We'll worry later about who pays or whether or not Cooper absorbs that cost," said Cooper chairman George Norcross III, who is also a Democratic political powerbroker and the brother of New Jersey congressional candidate Donald Norcross.

The program is to start July 1. It comes after the VA reported long wait times for appointments at VA health clinics across the country. The VA report released last week showed that new patients at the VA system in Philadelphia, which serves southern New Jersey, waited an average 43 days for a primary care visit. At the northern New Jersey branch, it was 25 days.

The VA later clarified that average wait times at many facilities are likely much shorter than first reported but the bottom line is the same: Many veterans are still waiting too long for care.

George Norcross said he is hoping other health care providers in New Jersey and across the country start making the same commitment as Cooper. Norcross said it's not enough for Congress to consider a bill that would require appointments within 30 days, and that's why Cooper is trying to do more.

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