SHAHEEN, AYOTTE: VA REFORM BILL IS SIGNIFICANT STEP TOWARD FIXING INEQUITIES IN CARE FOR NH VETERANS

Senators worked to include provision expanding veterans’ choice to seek care from private providers

June 11, 2014

(Washington, DC) – New Hampshire U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today announced that they have successfully included language in a bipartisan bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help address a long-standing inequity in New Hampshire veterans’ access to health care by expanding their ability to seek care from non-VA providers. The bipartisan bill, crafted by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), expands veterans’ access to health care and makes it easier to fire VA officials for misconduct.

“For far too long, New Hampshire veterans have been at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to accessing health care services, and this bipartisan bill gives them the choice of receiving care from a private provider instead of being forced to wait in line or travel hours to seek VA care,” said Senators Shaheen and Ayotte. “This legislation is a significant step toward correcting serious inequities in access to care and making sure New Hampshire veterans get the timely and quality care they deserve.” 

"This legislation is a major step forward in making sure New Hampshire veterans have the same access to health care services as those living in other states. New Hampshire has wonderful local hospitals and this legislation allows veterans to avoid longer wait times and reduces the long drives for our veterans,” said Peter Burdett, chair of the State Veterans Advisory Council. “We're grateful to Senators Shaheen and Ayotte for their continued outstanding leadership, standing up for New Hampshire veterans and helping to ensure they can get the care and services they have earned." 

The legislation would give veterans the option to receive care from a non-VA provider if the VA cannot provide the requested appointment within VA wait-time goals or if a veteran lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. 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.

For years, Shaheen and Ayotte have urged the VA to expand access to health care for veterans living in the North Country, where they often travel more than 130 miles to access VA facilities in Littleton, Conway, Manchester, or Boston. 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, Shaheen and Ayotte announced the approval of two VA health care sites for Colebrook and Berlin in the North Country.

The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation in the coming days.