Today, Congressman Bruce Poliquin held a press conference in Lewiston to announce a new Veterans bill he is introducing in Congress and to conduct the first meeting of his newly-launched Veteran Advisory Panel.
The announcement and first meeting of Poliquin’s Veteran Advisory Panel comes shortly after reports surfaced last week of abuse and neglect at Togus and the Congressman’s introduction of legislation to make sure such failures by the VA never happen again.
The Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act announced today will help allow Veterans to receive care from local providers that are closer to home. Specifically, the bill allows the VA to enter into Veterans Care Agreements with qualified health care providers for critical hospital, medical, and extended care services, removing unnecessary red tape so local, qualified providers can support our Veterans.
The Congressman made the announcement before beginning the first meeting of his newly-launched Veteran Advisory Panel. The panel serves as a local tool for Congressman Poliquin to hear and better understand issues affecting Veterans in communities across Maine’s expansive and rural 2nd Congressional District. The panel is a body consisting of Maine Veterans who represent communities in the District and who engage in local resources networks within their own communities.
Congressman Poliquin released the following statement:
“I’m extremely excited to conduct the first of many meetings for our Veteran Advisory Panel, a new resource for our Veterans in local communities across Maine’s 2nd District to more easily and directly have a voice on the issues that are most important to them” said Congressman Poliquin. “After the recent reports of abuse and neglect at Togus came to light last week, we’re again unfortunately reminded of the critical work that needs to be done to make sure our Veterans are given the care and support they deserve, and I’m encouraged this Veteran Advisory Panel will help to serve that cause.
“With the panel’s first meeting, I’m pleased to introduce new legislation to help our Veterans receive care from local providers and closer to home. This bill will help remove red tape for our local, qualified providers so they can support our Veterans. Supported by the American Health Care Association, this legislation will improve our Veterans’ access to timely and convenient care, and I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress and VA Secretary Shulkin to get these policies enacted on behalf of our Veterans.”
In today’s Veteran Advisory Panel meeting, the Congressman and panel members discussed a number of issues brought up by Veterans from across Maine’s 2nd District. In today’s meeting, the panel discussed the potential increase in demand for Veterans services in the Lewiston-Auburn area; an assisted living facility in Aroostook County; home care for elderly and disabled Veterans; transportation and access to health care for Veterans, specifically in Hancock and Washington Counties; efforts to increase Veterans’ awareness of the resources and benefits available to them; work to simplify the oftentimes bureaucratic and technical hoops Veterans must go through to apply for benefits through the VA; and many other topics.
The panel, which was announced earlier this year, formally meets quarterly in different locations throughout Maine. The assembly also holds monthly conference calls to discuss policy initiatives and issues that Congressman Poliquin should be aware of and engage on in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. In addition, the panel has regular inter-communication. Congressman Poliquin joins panel meetings in-person at least once a year and by Skype when he is in Washington, D.C.