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14th
Sep 2021

New VA Clinic Will Be Welcome News For Area Veterans

 
It’s been a longtime discussion in Berkeley that has boiled down to, in layman’s terms, one simple idea: Ocean County’s existing VA clinic in Brick Township is in terrible shape, can’t handle demand, and is in dire need of an upgrade.
 
After years of discussion, concerns, and complaints, those complaints are finally being addressed.
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be opening a new, modern clinic in Toms River, which will make it more centrally located in the county with the largest veteran population in the state, and which will put it that much closer to Berkeley Township
 
That’s big news for a town with one of the largest vet populations in the state.
 
“We applaud the announcement that a new state of the art VA Clinic will be coming to Toms River,” Mayor Carmen Amato said. “This will provide easy access to our veterans seeking medical care.”
 
The new clinic will be a 68,000-square-foot facility with an outpatient clinic for veterans, parking for 480, and more. It will be located near Seacourt Pavilion in Toms River, off Hooper Avenue, and will be part of a much larger complex that will include a new building for the Ocean County Board of Social Services and the county's own Veterans Service Bureau.
 
“When constructed, this will provide a short and convenient ride for them. We owe the best medical care to each and every veteran for their service to our Country,” Amato said.
 
The new clinic will be double the size of the James J. Howard Outpatient Clinic in Brick, which sees upwards of 12,000 patients a year, making it among the most active VA clinics in the state. It is so busy, in fact, that in 2014 a 5,000-square-foot annex had to be opened just down the road in order to better handle its load.
 
The clinic’s services will include standard primary health care, as well as dental care, mental health counseling, physical therapy, and health services geared towards female veterans. It will be just one of 10 in the state, with the next closest in Tinton Falls.
 
Ocean County has by far the most veterans of any county in the state, with over 40,000 living within its borders. The some 30,000 vets living in nearby Monmouth County means this region has a dense veterans population.
 
Those demographics were part of what made the lobbying effort for this facility so large. Local, county, state, and federal officials all pitched in to make it happen, stretching across party lines and including democrats, republicans, and non-political advocates alike.
 
Locally, at the federal level Congressman Andy Kim (D-3) pushed for the project in Washington D.C., held roundtable meetings to bring attention to the issue, joined with Congressman Chris Smith (R-4) in sending the VA a letter outlining the issues Ocean County’s existing facility faces. He also worked with local veteran leaders on their lobbying efforts to make the project happen.
“Since Day 1 in Congress, getting a new health clinic for our honorable veterans in Ocean County has been my top priority,” Kim said. 
 
“The thousands of veterans in our community deserve a world-class facility that can give them the care they need right here in Ocean county. I’m proud of our work to deliver this new clinic and am grateful for the positive impact it will have on our veterans and our community.”
 
The contract to build the facility was awarded to Arlington, Virginia’s FD Stonewater, a firm which has worked on other VA clinics in the past. Total cost for the project will be about $61 million. Ground was broken on the project in August.
 
By Eric San Juan
 
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