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In response to bipartisan effort, VA plans to open clinics for North Country veterans

(Washington, DC) – New Hampshire U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) are announcing today that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has approved the opening of two Veterans Affairs (VA) health care sites in Colebrook and Berlin. The announcement comes after repeated calls from Shaheen and Ayotte, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to establish accessible VA medical care facilities for North Country veterans.

The VA approval of an expansion plan for the White River Junction (WRJ) VA Medical Center (VAMC) to incorporate VA sites in both Colebrook and Berlin represents the culmination of a years-long bipartisan effort by Shaheen and Ayotte to expand health care access for veterans in the North Country. The new Colebrook and Berlin clinics will offer primary care, preventive health care, lab draws, and telehealth services through a shared staffing model with existing health care clinics. The part-time health care clinics will help serve more than 2,500 veterans in local and surrounding areas and are scheduled to open by the end of the current fiscal year, according to the VA. 

“All of our veterans who have answered the call of duty have the right to quality, local and accessible health care, and the opening of new VA clinics in Colebrook and Berlin will be delivering on that commitment for North Country veterans,” Shaheen said. “North Country veterans have faced obstacles getting health care for far too long, and the opening of new clinics is long overdue. I look forward to continue working with Secretary Shinseki and Senator Ayotte to get these facilities open as soon as possible.”

"This is terrific news for North Country veterans, who deserve access to the same quality health care as those living in more populated areas of the state," Ayotte said. "The establishment of VA health care sites in Berlin and Colebrook will help address health care access challenges that veterans in the North Country have faced for far too long, and I will also continue to urge the VA to establish expanded contractual services with a North Country partner to provide inpatient care."

For years, Shaheen and Ayotte, along with the full New Hampshire delegation, have urged VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to expand access to veterans’ health care in the North Country – where veterans often travel more than 130 miles to access VA facilities in Littleton, Conway, or Manchester. Given the region’s mountainous terrain and hazardous weather, travel time for basic appointments can exceed two and a half hours each way. 

Earlier this year, they filed an amendment to a comprehensive veterans bill that would have required the VA to review patient access standards for veterans in northern New England, specifically in Coos County.