During a Senate Budget Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) pressed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and other senior VA officials to provide better care to North Country veterans.
Citing the difficulty that North Country veterans currently face in accessing care, Senator Ayotte called for the VA to establish a contract for inpatient services at the Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, as well as a part-time access clinic in Colebrook, co-located with a telehealth site. Senator Ayotte also highlighted the need for a full service VA medical center in Manchester. While New Hampshire veterans continue to wait for a full service VA medical center, Senator Ayotte asked VA officials to consider expanded contract services with local hospitals.
"Many of our veterans are traveling long distances to get the care that they deserve and across state lines and it is very difficult for many of them...Our veterans in our North Country deserve the same kinds of access [as] other more populated areas of the state," she said.
In response to a question from Senator Ayotte, Secretary Shinseki said, "It shouldn't matter whether it's a veteran living in a rural area or a veteran living in an urban environment...we have to create the opportunities to meet those requirements, whether it's a full-service hospital or some combination of working with quality hospitals that are currently available to us, we arrange our relationships to provide what veterans deserve."
Last year, Senator Ayotte and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) urged Secretary Shinseki to consider establishing a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Colebrook to serve North Country veterans. Last month, Senator Ayotte and fellow delegation members sent another letter to Secretary Shinseki to request that the VA locate a part-time access clinic with a proposed telehealth site in Colebrook, and reiterated the North Country's need for a CBOC.