Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire
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Kuster and Secretary Shulkin Discuss Improving Care for Veterans

Mar 15, 2017
Press Release
Kuster and Shulkin discussed the future of the choice card program, priorities for the coming Congress

A high resolution version of the photo is available here

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, met with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to discuss their shared priorities for the coming Congress. Specifically, Kuster and Shulkin examined the need to improve care for veterans in rural communities, the VA’s work to address the opioid epidemic, and the importance of ending veteran suicide.

“I’m encouraged that Secretary Shulkin understands the need for real action at the VA to improve care for veterans in New Hampshire and around the country,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “He shares my view that the Choice Program faces continued challenges and that the VA must foster a system that has the flexibility to effectively provide integrated healthcare in rural communities.”

Kuster has been vocal about the need to improve the Choice Program which she believes has been ineffective in delivering care in rural communities. She recently met with veterans in Berlin, New Hampshire to hear about their concerns with the program and shared their thoughts with Secretary Shulkin at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing last week.

Kuster continued, “Mr. Shulkin’s first weeks as Secretary of the VA leave me optimistic for our chances of making real advances for our veterans. His decision to extend VA mental health services to veterans with less than honorable discharges sends an important message that even one veteran suicide is too many. The rate of veteran suicide is a stain on our collective conscience and I’m committed to working with Mr. Shulkin and my colleagues on the VA committee to end this crisis.” 

Kuster and Shulkin also discussed the need to reduce the prescribing of opioids to veterans experiencing chronic pain. Kuster has worked with Dr. Julie Franklin of White River Junction VA Medical Center to examine ways to help ensure that veterans have the assistance they need to deal with the pain they face responsibly. Last week, at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Mr. Shulkin discussed the importance of continuing to improve VA’s opioid prescribing practices and addiction treatment services.  

Congresswoman Kuster has been a strong supporter of efforts to prevent veteran suicide. She co-sponsored and supported the Clay Hunt Act, which was signed into law in 2015, and provides oversight at the DOD and VA to help ensure all veterans can access the comprehensive mental health services they need. The Clay Hunt Act, unfortunately, did not extend mental health services to veterans with other-than-honorable administrative discharges, which is why Kuster helped introduced the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act. This legislation would direct the VA to establish a program to provide mental health services to veterans who were discharged or released under a condition less than honorable.