Advocating for Granite State Veterans
I hope you all had a terrific weekend! I wanted to provide you all with an update on the work I have been doing so far in 2015 for veterans around New Hampshire, because I am committed to ensuring they get the benefits and services they have earned. These brave men and women served to protect our country, and it is our duty to support them during and after the transition back to civilian life.
Hearing from Granite Staters about the Veterans Choice Card
It was great to meet with representatives from the NH Chapter of the American Legion in Washington recently (pictured at left). We discussed the implementation of the Veterans Choice Card and the importance of improving access to quality health care for veterans. The program allows veterans to receive medical care at private facilities if long wait times or location make it difficult for veterans to access care at the VA. This is particularly crucial for states like New Hampshire that do not have full-service VA hospitals.
One of the American Legion members I met with, John Neylon of Twin Mountain, shared his positive experience with the Veterans Choice Card program with me during our meeting. John received his Choice Card in the mail, but didn’t initially know how the program worked. Soon after, he needed medical services and called the VA Medical Center in Manchester to see what his next step should be. They provided him with guidance on how to move forward, and from that point on, John told me that everything went smoothly. The VA helped him determine his eligibility and inquired about what services he needed, so that they could help determine which local health care provider was most convenient for him. Since then, John has received both primary and specialty care services from non-VA providers that are closer to home.
Recently, I was proud to introduce legislation that would protect the Veterans Choice Card program in New Hampshire from proposed budget cuts, so it always remains available for veterans like John. As a member of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee, I fought for the Veterans Choice Card program to be included in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, which was signed into law late last year.
Fighting for North Country Veterans
I recently met with veterans at the Berlin Vet Center (pictured at right) to discuss issues facing veterans in the North Country and across the state. One of the major concerns I heard was about the delayed openings of the Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) set to be opened in Colebrook and Berlin. Some of the veterans in Coos County are faced with driving over 100 miles to receive services, often through winter weather and mountainous terrain, and the clinics in Colebrook and Berlin will drastically increase their access to health care.
That’s why last week I called on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expedite the opening of two clinics in Colebrook and Berlin to better serve North Country veterans. Working with our state’s full congressional delegation, I have long urged the VA to open these two sites in order for North Country veterans to have better access to the top-quality health care services they deserve. Now, we must ensure that these clinics open up in a timely manner, and I will continue to monitor progress at the VA to ensure these clinics are up and running as soon as possible.
My Work in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee
I am proud to continue as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the 114th Congress. Last year, I helped lead the investigation into the mismanagement scandals at VA centers in Phoenix and across the nation, and I was recently selected by my colleagues to serve as Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. This new role will give me the opportunity to provide increased oversight at the VA to ensure every veteran can easily access the care he or she needs.
I helped lead the first hearing of the year for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (O&I), which focused on the practice of land-use agreements between the VA and non-VA entities. It is unconscionable that because of administrative mismanagement, many of these agreements are actually causing the VA to lose money – money that should be spent on veteran services. That’s why I urged VA officials to lay out a concrete plan for overhauling the system, so we can ensure that all VA land-use agreements make financial sense and that the VA is always properly compensated.
Recently, I attended the first hearing of the year for the Subcommittee on Health, of which I am also a member, to address the cost of veterans’ health care. My colleagues and I questioned witnesses from the Congressional Budget Office and the Department of Veterans Affairs about what steps the VA is taking to provide high quality health care for our veterans. I am committed to improving the quality of care for Granite State veterans, as well as ensuring they have access to the full range of services they need and deserve.
Thank you to all our veterans in New Hampshire and their families for everything you do to protect our state and nation. You make us all proud.