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Lawmakers: New Jersey VA Facilities Have Too Few Doctors, Long Wait Times

EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A bipartisan congressional delegation from New Jersey has urged the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to take immediate action on problems at two VA hospitals.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, veterans who served their country said the VA medical center in East Orange is not serving them when it comes to appointments.

U.S. Army veteran Rafael Alvarez said he has sometimes waited over a month for an appointment. He and other veterans claimed there are not enough doctors at the facility.

"There may be some small delays with specialty doctors," said U.S. Marine veteran Darrow Adams.

Lawmakers led by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) issued a letter to VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald demanding answers on what they called the "VA's plan to alleviate this doctor shortage and eliminate lengthy wait times at all New Jersey facilities."

A VA representative said data showed vets are getting timely appointments. Some patients agreed.

"I had a wonderful time," said U.S. Army veteran and Newark resident Jerome Wise.

The VA said it is also hiring more staff at all New Jersey facilities. Nutley is one of a few towns helping vets on a local level.

"There's a lot local government could do at little or no cost to help these veterans – right in their home town – that would relieve the back log of the VA," said Nutley Public Affairs Commissioner Steven Rogers. "But I wish somebody in Washington would speak to us on a local government level."

In addition to the East Orange VA hospital, an outpatient veterans' clinic in Vineland, in South Jersey, was also cited in the letter for long wait times.

A VA representative said the department is reviewing all appointments to see where it faces challenges and how it can improve.

As for the letter, the VA said Secretary McDonald will respond directly to the New Jersey congressional delegation.

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