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May 31, 2023

King to VA Nominee: Maine Veterans’ Homes Need a Timeline for Reimbursements

Senator also urges nominee to call on her “inner bear to go after” contractor accountability, ensure veterans’ wellbeing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs (SVAC), today questioned a top Department of Veterans Affairs Nominee about a number of challenges facing the Maine veterans community and her commitment to addressing them. In a hearing of the SVAC committee, Senator King questioned Deputy Secretary nominee Tanya Bradsher about how soon Maine Veterans’ Homes can expect to see reimbursements for care provided to veterans with dementia. He also asked about her commitment to ensuring that the VA electronic health record modernization effort prioritizes veterans’ wellbeing and penalizes providers when they fail to meet benchmarks.

“As you know, an issue I've been involved with is Domiciliary Care in Maine Veterans’ Homes, in veterans’ homes generally. We passed a statute on this, it's now been 28 months, we still don't have a rule, and I would appreciate a timeline to get that done. 28 months is too long for a rule. And by the way, that rule should be retroactive given the time that's elapsed. This is a real hardship to our veterans’ homes, something like $3 million a year being lost because they're doing the right thing by taking care of veterans with dementia. So, I hope you'll attend to that issue,” Senator King pressed.

Nominee Bradsher responded, “Yes, Senator. If confirmed, I would, definitely.”

Thank you,” Senator King said. “Number two, I know various people have talked about the electronic medical records. I want you to be really obnoxious on this contract. I don't know if you have it in you, but try, because so far, we haven't held the contractor to their obligations. I know it's been changed to a year-to- year. That gives us substantial leverage, I hope you'll use it, because if we have specific goals, in terms of metrics, approval rating by the users, all of those kinds of things, timeliness, lack of crashes, and if they're not meeting them, there should be penalties, and that should be part of the contract. They should have costs if they don't meet those metrics. I'm concerned that we're sort of drifting through this process and not holding the contractors accountable. There’re billions of dollars at stake here, taxpayer’s money. This has been a drama that we really ought to be bringing to a close. So, I want you to call on your inner bear to go after this issue.”

“Senator, I'm a mother of three from ages 23 to 17. I have bear in me,” Nominee Bradsher replied.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator King works to oversee the VA and ensure the proper implementation of various programs, such as the PACT Act, the State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act, and the John Scott Hannon Act. Senator King hopes to help improve the bureau’s capacity by investing in its workforce, facilities, and other modernization efforts.

Last year, Senator King conducted nine interviews with Maine veterans as part of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, an effort by the Library to collect, preserve and distribute the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. You can find or watch all nine of Senator King’s interviews HERE

Senator King is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and has repeatedly pressed for action from top DoD officials on the issue of servicemember suicide. Additionally, he recently spearheaded the passage of legislation to better track and study servicemember suicides by job assignment. Senator King has also worked to properly honor and recognize the sacrifices of Purple Heart medal recipientsprotect veterans from fraud, and expand veteran assisted living services.


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