Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced his support for legislation that would provide emergency funding to the Veterans Choice Program. The program, which helps veterans across Maine and the nation receive health within their communities, is facing an unexpected funding shortfall and, according to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, is likely to run out of money in early August.
The Veterans Access to Care Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, would provide $4.3 billion in funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fund the Veterans Choice Program through the end of the 2018 Fiscal Year. The bill would also authorize funding for the proposed CBOC in Portland, which would consolidate the existing Saco and Portland CBOCs and enhance VA outpatient services.
“The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has warned us that unless Congress takes action, veterans across Maine and America are at risk of losing the care through the Veterans Choice Program. That’s simply unacceptable,” Senator King said. “This legislation would ensure that the VA has the funding it needs to carry out its mission and ensure that veterans have easy access to the high-quality care and services that they have not only earned but deserve.”
More specifically, the Veterans Access to Care Act of 2017 would:
· Authorize and appropriate funding for the Veterans Choice Program and funding to bolster the VA’s in-house capacity to provide high-quality, timely care to veterans.
· Provide funding to hire medical staff, including physicians, gynecologists, nurses, social workers, mental health professionals, physician assistants, and other health care professionals as the VA Secretary considers appropriate
· Improve hiring and recruitment of medical staff by developing an annual report on staffing shortages, establish residency programs and bolster those already in existence, and funding health professional and graduate medical education programs and positions.
· Improve the VA’s infrastructure by maintaining, repairing, and operating hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities.
· Expand eligibility for participation in and services provided under the VA’s family caregiver program to veterans of all eras.
· Authorize certain major medical facility leases, such as an outpatient clinic in Portland, Maine.
To read a copy of the Veterans Access to Care Act of 2017, click HERE.
In January, Senator King, along with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), introduced the Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act, bipartisan legislation that would authorize pending leases for 24 VA medical facilities, including the proposed CBOC in Portland.