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Thursday, March 09, 2006

NJ Assemblyman, Mayor Help Homeless Vets

Two local New Jersey officials have determined to do whatever they can to help our veterans. Fourth-district Assemblyman David Mayer and Assemblyman and Washington Township Mayor Paul Moriarty have introduced a bill benefitting the Veterans Haven Program, located in Winslow Township. Veterans Haven is a facility that provides assistance and shelter to up to 54 homeless veterans a night. Let's take a look at how these two fine gentlemen are supporting their troops where it counts most -- at the local level.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Coming on the heels of Tuesday's news that 25% of New Jersey's returning veterans are struggling with PTSD and other mental health problems, we see two gentlemen who are trying their best to alleviate one outcome linked to PTSD: homelessness.

Before winning the Assemblyman title, both men ran on the following veteran-friendly platform:

Recognizing, as General George Washington did that, “the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country,” Assembly candidates Paul Moriarty and David Mayer released their Veterans platform. ...

All Veterans in New Jersey would benefit from David Mayer’s plan to create a cabinet level position for Veterans in government. “Our Veterans need a voice at the table. Our government is pushing too much on one plate with military affairs and Veterans’ responsibilities in the same department,” said Mayer (D-Gloucester Township). “We need to make government more efficient and attentive to our Veterans’ needs.”

Listen to them discuss this issue.

Well, now that they're in office, they're getting busy:

The proposed bill would permit residents to contribute voluntarily to the Veterans Haven Program on their state income tax returns, according to Mayer.
"You and I, as taxpayers, will be able to check off a box that says, 'please make a donation to Veterans Haven.' That money will be earmarked for the program," Mayer said. That money, in turn, would go toward expanding the services provided by Veterans Haven. Currently, the facility acts as the core place in which homeless veterans seek and find shelter.

Right now, there aren't enough beds or rooms to accommodate those in need, according to Mayer. "They're at capacity all the time. We just can't place them," he said. ...

"I've noticed a tremendous need for resources to be dedicated to homeless veterans. These are individuals who have fought for our country," he said.
As it stands now, it is estimated that 8,300 veterans will be homeless tonight, according to the New Jersey Health Care System Homeless Veterans Programs. ...

Bruce Tornari, vice commander of Washington Township's VFW Post 6332, said that other programs designed to assist veterans have been stretched since the start of the recent war in Iraq. "Take the V.A. (the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs)." Before the Iraq war they were under-staffed, under-funded and overworked. Now it's 10 times worse." The new legislation, A-2663, will help those as deserving as our veterans, Moriarty indicated.

"New Jersey Veterans deserve an opportunity to pursue a life that is
productive and happy. We owe a special debt to our veterans and there are so many falling through the cracks in our society." Moriarty said. ...

They go on to say that a lot of their veterans are returning with PTSD and need the services that Veterans Haven provides all the more. Program details:

After first being medically evaluated at a VA medical center, candidates for aid at Veterans Haven must agree to a long-term program focusing on psychological, social and vocational rehabilitation. Veterans Haven is a drug- and alcohol-free program. Residents must abide by this zero tolerance rule while enrolled. There is random testing for each, with violators being immediately discharged from the program.

Furthermore, Veterans Haven is divided into three phases: Treatment (TR),
Self-Reclamation (SR), and Community Reintegration (CR). Each phase lasts
three to six months and is tailored to individual treatment needs and vocational interests. Veterans completing the program return to vocations, which will support them in years to come. Veterans Haven program participants have a 75 percent success rate

If you'd like to send accolades to either New Jersey official, please do. More information on Veterans Haven can be found in their brochure [pdf].

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