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Legislation passed last night will significantly improve access to health care for veterans in New Hampshire and around the country

(Merrimack, NH) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) joined New Hampshire veterans at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8641 this morning to discuss the passage of bipartisan legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The breakthrough legislation that passed overwhelmingly last night included an important provision championed by Shaheen and Ayotte that will greatly improve New Hampshire veterans’ access to health care outside of the VA.

“We owe our veterans a tremendous debt of gratitude and they deserve nothing less than convenient, quality, accessible health care,” said Senator Shaheen. “The historic legislation we passed last night will help make that a reality. I’ve worked in a bipartisan fashion for years to expand access to care for New Hampshire veterans and I’m proud to have helped pass legislation that will allow our vets to receive quality care in their local communities.”

“This bill is an important step forward for New Hampshire veterans because it’s going to give them the respect and choice they deserve. For too long, many of our veterans, who bravely served our country, have been forced to travel to Massachusetts for care because we don’t have a full-service veterans hospital in Manchester. This bill would allow most veterans in our state to choose to go to a private provider in their own backyard rather than drive hours to receive care,” said Senator Ayotte. “To bolster accountability at the VA, this legislation also includes provisions to allow the VA secretary to fire those who have engaged in misconduct or simply aren’t doing their jobs.”

The bill would allow veterans to receive care from a non-VA provider if a veteran lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or if the VA cannot provide the requested appointment within VA wait-time goals. An additional provision Shaheen and Ayotte worked to include would give veterans the option of seeking care from a non-VA provider if they reside in a state without a full-service medical facility, like New Hampshire, and live more than 20 miles from the nearest full-service VA hospital.

The legislation also strengthens accountability at the VA by giving the Secretary more authority to fire or demote senior level employees based on their performance.