Veterans Appeals Act passes US Senate

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The Senate approved a pair of bills Tuesday taking aim at urgent problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, clearing a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fix a looming budget crisis and adopting new measures to pare down a rapidly growing backlog of veterans' disability claims. The program helps veterans across Maine and the nation receive health care within their communities and allows veterans in Northern Maine to continue to utilize community care as they did under the Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) pilot. "We need to speed up the appeals process so that veterans can get the treatment they need in a timely manner".

"Veterans deserve convenient access to the high-quality health care that they have earned through their service".

An email from Florida Senator Bill Nelson said the expenditure is part of a broad veterans' health care bill called the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017. The bill also makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans, and surviving family members who face school closures while enrolled and surviving family members, and offers additional educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training.

'I'm glad we were able to pass this legislation last night to ensure this program can continue serving veterans'.

The bill would also fund leases for 28 new VA facilities in 17 states - including one in Portland - and a handful of other VA initiatives.

According to a release, most of those facilities had already been waiting for congressional approval for more than a year at that time. Susan Collins and Angus King said in January, when they reintroduced a bill to authorize the pending leases. In May, the entire ME delegation wrote to VA Secretary David Shulkin and Director of Office and Budget Management Mick Mulvaney to urge the administration to help authorize the leases.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told Congress earlier this year that the Veterans Choice Program funding would run out in mid-August.

In September of previous year, he led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing the Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act to authorize leases for 24 VA medical facilities in 15 states.

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