The courageous men and women who serve in our armed forces have made countless personal sacrifices in the protection of the freedoms we enjoy today. I am proud that Maine is home to one of the highest percentages of veterans per capita in country. We have an obligation to ensure that these brave patriots have access to timely, quality care. In 2014, I strongly supported efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and better serve those who served us. We must not only fulfill our promise to care for those who have “borne the battle” and their families, but as a new generation of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen transition to civilian life, we must also secure their continued access to the employment, health, housing, and education services that they deserve.
- In 2016, I worked with the Maine delegation to ensure that Aroostook County veterans enrolled in the Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) program could continue to access specialty care at specified non-VA locations. Through Veterans Choice Program provider agreements, these veterans can now continue to receive their care at facilities closer to home than VA facilities — cutting down on driving and wait times.
- I cosponsored the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which was signed into law in June 2017. The bill empowers the Secretary of the VA to dismiss bad employees and provides appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers. I was glad to see this bill signed into law so that we can better ensure that our veterans have access to high-quality health care services.
- I cosponsored the Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act, which would support the construction of a new VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic facility in Portland in order to improve care and expand medical facilities available to Maine veterans. I worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to get this bill included in the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act, which was signed into law in August 2017, allowing the project to move forward.
- After hearing about the struggles of veterans in Maine attempting to receive fair and timely reviews of their benefits appeals, I was an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act. The bill redesigns the review process for appeals to make for quicker decisions and a reduction in the current case backlog. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent in August 2017.
- I believe we should help veterans remain at home with their loved ones, which is why I added my name as an original cosponsor to the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act. This bill would make veterans of all eras, and their families, eligible for the VA’s caregiver support program.
- Those who were exposed to radiation in fulfillment of their duty deserve the healthcare and benefits they earned. To ensure that happens, I cosponsored the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act to extend VA benefits to those who helped clean up the Marshall Islands, which remain partly uninhabitable due to high level of radiation.
- When the Senate was considering the FY17 veterans appropriations bill, I cosponsored an amendment that would deepen coordination between the Readjustment Counseling Service and the VA’s Office of Rural Health. This amendment was unanimously approved by the Senate and later signed into law, making it easier for rural veterans to receive quality mental health services.