Today, nearly 24 million Americans wear the title of veteran.  There are more than 138,000 veterans living in our great state of Maine.   As the daughter of a World War II Purple Heart recipient, Senator Collins learned that the heroes who wear the uniforms of America’s armed forces are patriotic, caring men and women who put aside the comforts of civilian life to advance the cause of freedom.  We owe them all a great debt.

Supporting our Wounded Warriors: Senator Collins has always been a strong advocate of all of those who are serving or have served in our nations’ Armed Forces.  Senator Collins authored a law requiring that the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs maintain a strong commitment to service members and veterans alike, particularly those who have suffered the visible and invisible wounds of war. 

Congress passed an amendment, authored by Senator Collins, to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to expand access to mental and behavioral health specialists for our service members, including National Guard and Reserve personnel, by allowing them to be treated by licensed DoD and contract mental health through telehealth.  This measure followed up on her 2010 legislation which expanded access to mental health professionals by allowing licensed mental health counselors to diagnose and treat service members and veterans under TRICARE. 

Protecting Service Members from Sexual Assault: In 2011, Congress adopted Senator Collins’ amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen protections for service members who are victims of sexual assault. 

State Veterans Homes: Senator Collins has led the effort to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish flexible payment rates for nursing home care provided by State Veterans Homes to service-connected severely disabled veterans.  In March 2012, Senator Collins led a bi-partisan letter to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, urging the committee to send legislation directing the VA to establish payment rates to the Senate floor for consideration.

Expedited Disability Review: Senator Collins authored an amendment adopted by  Congress requiring the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to report to Congress on how to expedite disability determinations for veterans with diseases or medical conditions that clearly qualify under disability standards.

Protecting Rural Health Care for Veterans: Senator Collins successfully convinced the Department of Veterans Affairs to overturn its decision to close the Bingham Mobile Medical Unit while it conducts a study to determine a long-term healthcare solution for veterans in Central Maine. 

With Senator Collins’ support, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that veterans in northern Maine will be able to access care at Cary Medical Center in Caribou through a pilot program known as Project ARCH.  Under the program, veterans in Aroostook County are able to receive primary care, secondary care, or acute care closer to home instead of being forced to travel hundreds of miles.


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