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(WASHINGTON, DC) – Yesterday, provisions supporting New Hampshire veterans authored by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) were included in the Senate Appropriations Committee bill for FY 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. Shaheen, who is a member of the committee, included amendments in the bill which will support access to healthcare for veterans and improve veterans’ legal services.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served our country and that includes making sure they have access to the services they need,” Shaheen said. “My amendments will help continue to improve access to healthcare for veterans in New Hampshire, and support programs for veterans involved in the criminal justice system.  As a member of the both the Appropriations Committee and Armed Services Committee, I’ll continue to advocate on behalf of our men and women in uniform and our veterans.”

Shaheen continued her effort to expand healthcare options for veterans in NH by directing the VA to examine further extension of the Veterans Choice Card program. Last year, Shaheen included a provision in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act that allowed veterans living in states without a full-service VA hospital, and more than twenty miles from the nearest qualifying facility, to use VA health coverage to access providers in their local communities.  Shaheen’s amendment, which was adopted unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlights the challenges NH veterans face in accessing care, and requires the VA to study the feasibility of extending Veterans Choice Card program for states like NH long-term.  Earlier this year, Shaheen introduced legislation with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that would make the Veterans Choice Card permanent for states without a full-service hospital, like New Hampshire.

Shaheen’s other amendment offered strong support for the VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program, and directed the Department to report on its capacity to meet current demand from local law enforcement and courts.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 9.3 percent of people incarcerated in the United States are veterans, the vast majority of which are in prison for non-violent crimes. Many incarcerated veterans suffer from substance abuse, mental illness and other serious medical conditions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). VJO specialists help train local law enforcement and courts on veteran-specific issues, and help divert veterans into VA treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration.