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Appropriations Committee Advances Senator Collins’ Priorities to Improve Rural Veterans’ Access to Health Care Nationwide

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today that the Appropriations Committee approved a provision she authored in its report that will ensure continued access to health care for rural veterans nationwide.  Senator Collins is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee.  The bill, which was advanced unanimously by a vote of 31-0, will now be considered by the full Senate.


Specifically, the language Senator Collins authored in the FY2019 MilCon-VA Appropriations Act committee report directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to sustain continuity of care for rural veterans through provider agreements, based on the highly successful ARCH program, to ensure veterans in rural areas maintain convenient access to health services close to their homes. 


The funding bill also includes $270 million for VA rural health care, an increase of $20 million over the amount requested in the President’s budget request.  As a member of the subcommittee, Sen. Collins advocated for this increased funding.


“I am pleased that my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee unanimously supported this legislation, which makes significant investments in the health care veterans have earned through their service to our country,” said Senator Collins.  “I have heard from countless Maine veterans about how ARCH eliminated the need for long and difficult travel, reduced wait times, and provided access to high-quality care in their communities.  My language will ensure Maine veterans continue to receive convenient health care access close to their homes based on highly successful models such as ARCH.”


Beginning in 2011, the ARCH pilot program allowed Northern Maine veterans to receive health care services at Cary Medical Center in Caribou, negating the need for these veterans to travel up to 600 miles roundtrip to the Togus VA Hospital in Augusta.  The pilot had a 90 percent satisfaction rating among veterans who participated. 


Prior to the ARCH program’s expiration in 2016, Senator Collins strongly advocated for the continuation of similar access to community care.  The VA began authorizing provider agreements that allowed Northern Maine veterans to continue receiving health care services at Cary Medical Center and other providers in a manner very similar to the ARCH program.  Senator Collins’ provision in the MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill will expand ARCH-like access to rural veterans across the country.


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