Senator Collins Speaks from the Senate Floor: Senate Approves Critical Funding for Veterans’ Programs and Military Construction Projects

Bipartisan Funding Measure Provides $7.2 Million for Renovations at 101st Air National Guard Wing in Bangor

     Washington, D.C. – Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, voted in favor of the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which passed the Senate 93 to 0 this afternoon.  The bill contains nearly $80 billion in funding, which represents an increase of more than $1 billion above the President’s FY 2016 budget request.  It also reflects bipartisan compromise and a commitment, on the eve of Veterans’ Day, to ensure that Congress funds programs and priorities that support veterans, our troops, and their families.
      “The vital programs funded by this bipartisan legislation are essential to ensuring that veterans, who have placed their lives on the line for our continued safety, receive the benefits that they have earned.  Passing this bill is an important step in honoring our commitments to them.  This measure also funds military construction projects, which unfortunately have been adversely affected by budget caps and the effects of sequestration,” said Senator Collins.
      “I am particularly pleased that the bill includes $7.2 million for renovations and repairs of the 101st Air National Guard Wing’s fire and rescue facility in Bangor, ME – funding I advocated for,”Senator Collins continued.  “The 101st “MAINEiacs” provide critical 24/7 air and ground refueling services that support global military operations.”
      Senator Collins also authored an amendment, which was accepted into the final bill, that would help to protect our service men and women from identity theft and fraud. The amendment would require the VA Secretary to submit a report to Congress on the VA’s use of Social Security numbers (SSNs) and the Department’s plans to eliminate the unnecessary use of SSNs.
      In addition to the Bangor Air National Guard Wing funding, the measure provides important resources for programs that benefit Maine, including: 
      Increasing investment in the ARCH Program: The bill includes $270 million in funding for the Office of Rural Health through which the Access Received Close to Home (ARCH) program is funded.  ARCH ensures that rural veterans, who often face difficulties accessing the regular VA health system, can receive care closer to where they live and closer to their families.  Cary Memorial Hospital in Caribou, Maine, is the site of one of the five ARCH pilot programs.
      Helping to reduce veteran homelessness: This legislation provides $1.4 billion for programs aimed at reducing veteran homelessness, a priority of Senator Collins’ as the Chairman of the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
      Providing access to critical health care services: This legislation includes $7.5 billion in funding for veterans’ mental health care.  In addition, $446 million is provided for women veterans’ health care.
      Helping to build state extended care facilities for our veterans: This bill allocates $100 million for the construction of state extended care facilities. This would benefit Maine Veterans’ Homes as they help to care for Maine’s heroes and their families.    
      In May of this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill out of committee with a strong, bipartisan vote of 21 to 9.