Manchester, NH— Today, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter continued to demonstrate her unwavering support for veterans by announcing she will introduce legislation requiring the Veterans Administration to provide New Hampshire veterans with the same services veterans in other states receive at their full service hospitals. Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s bill, “The Veterans Equity Health Act,” will ensure that veterans in each of the 48 contiguous states have access to at least one full-service hospital of the Veterans Health Administration or receive comparable services provided by contract.
“It is shameful that many of our veterans our forced to travel out of state because New Hampshire does not have a full service VA hospital,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “My bill will ensure our vets have appropriate access to medical care.”
The Veterans Equity Health Act requires the Secretary of the VA to ensure, with respect to the 48 contiguous States, veterans have access to either –
- At least one full-service hospital of the Veterans Health Administration in the State; or
- To hospital care and medical services comparable to the services provided in full-service hospitals through contract with other health care providers in the State.
The legislation ensures that the ability of the VA to provide enhanced care to veterans out-of-state will not be restricted. It simply makes sure that they have access to services in-state. It also requires the Secretary of the VA to report to Congress on the effect implementing these measures has on the veterans quality of care.
New Hampshire is the only state that does not have a full service VA hospital or comparable services through a military facility. Although there are more than 130,000 veterans currently living in New Hampshire, many are forced to travel out of state for medical care, including cancer treatment. Last Friday, VA Affairs Secretary James Peake announced that the Manchester VA hospital will start offering radiation therapy.
Remarks of Representative Carol Shea Porter
Announcing the Introduction of
The Veterans Health Equity Act of 2008
July 28, 2008
Good afternoon. We are here today to restore health-care fairness to New Hampshire veterans.
As we all know, New Hampshire has not had a full-service veterans hospital since 2001. New Hampshire is the only state without a full-service VA hospital or comparable facility (Veterans in Alaska and Hawaii receive care at military hospitals on base). While New Hampshire may be a small state, it has a veteran population of 128,000. Smaller states with smaller veteran populations have full-service hospitals.
Because we do not have a veterans hospital, New Hampshire veterans are forced to travel out of state for medical care. Veterans traveling from the most Northern parts of the state may have to travel 3 hours to Manchester and then may be forced to travel another hour to Boston, if they are referred there for their care.
This routinely happens – hundreds of patients are referred to both Boston VA facilities and White River Junction in VT. In 2007, 704 of our veterans were transferred out-of-state for Acute Care. 346 of those veterans were sent to Boston
With me today are a number of veterans who have suffered because New Hampshire does not have a full-service hospital.
I have been calling for the VA to restore the Manchester facility to a full-service hospital since I came to Congress.
· October 5, 2007, I sent letter to then Acting Veterans Administration Secretary Gordon Mansfield asking him to work with me to ensure that New Hampshire's veterans were provided with the best possible care and services.
o I did not receive an official response.
· January 29, 2008, shortly after Secretary Peake's appointment was confirmed, I urged the Administration to work with me to restore the Manchester facility to a full-service hospital.
· February 22, 2008, Secretary Peake replied assuring me that he would "evaluate the health care services New Hampshire's veterans are receiving from our Department, and will consider expanding those services as needs are identified.”
· March 10, 2008, Chairman Bob Filner of the Veterans Affairs Committee visited the Manchester Veterans facility, at my request, and held a series of events including a roundtable, during which we heard about the serious problems that occur from a lack of a full-service hospital. He assured me that the House Veterans Affairs Committee will work with me to ensure that New Hampshire’s veterans have access to the care they need.
· June 24, 2008, I met with Secretary Peake at the Manchester VAMC and expressed my interest in working with him to either restore the facility to a full-service hospital or provide local access. Secretary Peake refused to comment on my request. When I asked him directly if the answer was yes or no, he said neither. One hour later, he announced to the press that the answer was no.
The Administration’s failure to act is unacceptable. So tomorrow I will introduce the Veterans Health Equity Act of 2008. This legislation will ensure that veterans have access to at least one full-service hospital, or that they can receive care -- the same care they would get in a VA hospital -- within the State. This would mean that the VA would have to do one of two things, either restore the Manchester facility to a full-service hospital, or partner with more local health providers to find ways to make sure that our Veterans can receive the care they need, right here in New Hampshire.
Our local VA facility has done a great job of reaching out to local partners and getting our vets access to as much local care as possible, but current VA regulations do not allow them to fully utilize the local medical community. This is not enough.
If the VA will not consider restoring Manchester to a full-service facility or ensuring that New Hampshire veterans have access to care in New Hampshire, Congress must do so and will do so.
Secretary Peake recently announced that the Manchester VA hospital will start offering radiation therapy. I welcome this development. It is shameful that New Hampshire veterans have been forced to travel several hours—often by bus—to receive chemotherapy.
This announcement, however, provides further support for the legislation that I am introducing. Our veterans – regardless of whether they need radiation therapy, mental health services, acute care or anything else – need and deserve the care their counterparts in every other state need and receive. It is unconscionable that we deny them this full-service care and instead offer them ad hoc services.
The New Hampshire delegation must work together with Administrator of the New Hampshire VA and the Bush Administration to ensure that our veterans receive the care they need. The recent expansion of radiation services proves that the VA can work to ensure that local care is available. It is time for the VA to go further. I look forward to continuing to make this a priority.
Chronology of Actions Taken by Representative Carol Shea Porter
To Restore Full Service Hospital Care
To New Hampshire Veterans
· October 5, 2007, Representative Shea Porter sent letter to then Acting Veterans’ Administration Secretary Gordon Mansfield.
o Did not receive an official response.
· January 29, 2008, shortly after Secretary Peake's appointment was confirmed, Representative Shea Porter urge that the Administration work with her to restore the Manchester facility to a full-service hospital.
· February 22, 2008, Secretary Peake replied assuring Representative Shea Porter that he would "evaluate the health care services New Hampshire's veterans are receiving from our Department, and will consider expanding those services as needs are identified.”
· March 10, 2008, Chairman Bob Filner of the Veterans Affairs Committee visited the Manchester veteran’s facility, at Representative Shea Porter’s request, and held a series of events including a roundtable during which he heard about the serious problems that occur from a lack of a full-service hospital. He has assured Representative Shea Porter that the House Veterans Affairs Committee will work to ensure that New Hampshire’s veterans have access to the care they need.
· June 24, 2008, Representative Carol Shea Porter met with Secretary Peake at the Manchester VAMC and expressed her interest in working with him to restore the facility to a full-service hospital. Secretary Peake refused to comment on the proposal.
o Shortly after that meeting on June 24th, the Secretary announced to the press that New Hampshire would not have a full-service VA facility.
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