May 22, 2015
New Jersey lawmakers are asking the U.S. Defense Department to reconsider its decision to strip funding from a state-operated veterans’ suicide prevention hotline.
The decision to end the Vets4Warriors program as of Aug. 15 was announced without public notice and is an “irresponsible” move, according to a bipartisan group of six N.J. congressional lawmakers who sent a formal request Thursday to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to reconsider the decision, NJ.com reported.
The program is operated by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care and is run by fellow veteran volunteers who answer and respond to calls for help.
According to NJ.com, since 2011 the program has assisted 130,000 veterans and members of their immediate family.
The Pentagon instead will provide those services through its own Military OneSource, spokeswoman Laura Seal said, adding that OneSource will actually provide better service and care to the veterans.
OneSource counselors hold master's degrees and can respond to complex issues more dutifully, Seal said. The Pentagon will also develop a plan to transfer and forward calls and online queries to the new system.
"Our decisions are driven by a steadfast commitment to providing service members and families with the best possible benefits and assistance, which is what expansion of Military OneSource to include peer-to-peer support enables us to do," Seal told NJ.com.
The effort to get the Pentagon to reconsider its decision was led by U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9th Dist.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); they were joined by Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.), Tom MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.) LoBiondo and MacArthur sit on the House Armed Services Committee.
Read the full NJ.com article here.