WASHINGTON – Today during the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s year-end hearing, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan pressed Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough for updates on strengthening VA service in New Hampshire, burial equity for NH National Guardsmen and Reservists, and the need to improve VA health care to respond to possible toxic exposure.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
Ensuring Burial Equity for All Who Serve
Senator Hassan highlighted bipartisan legislation she is pushing for to ensure that all members of Reserve components and the National Guard are eligible to be buried in state veterans cemeteries.
“Let me turn to another issue that I hear a lot from New Hampshire veterans, and particularly New Hampshire National Guardsmen and Reservists, who swear to defend the constitution and this country just like their Active Duty counterparts, and deserve the same respect and recognition,” said Senator Hassan. “So I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Shaheen, Cramer, and Hoeven to reform the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program to ensure that all members of Reserve Components and the National Guard are eligible to be buried in state veterans cemeteries.”
“You raised this issue with me, I took it for action…we’ve enunciated our support for the provision and we’ll make sure it gets done,” said Secretary McDonough.
Strengthening VA Health Care in New Hampshire
Senator Hassan also followed up on her previous discussions with Secretary McDonough on modernizing VA health care facilities.
“In my state of New Hampshire, veterans make up more than 10 percent of our adult population, and the VA projects that the number of VA enrollees in New Hampshire will grow in the coming years,” Senator Hassan said. She also noted that New Hampshire is one of the only states that lacks a full-service VA hospital, and thus the need to modernize VA health care facilities is even more pressing.
“As a VA New Hampshire task force found in 2018, we need to improve specialty care services and facilities, establish an ambulatory surgical center, build a community living center, and improve parking to access these facilities,” said Senator Hassan.
In response, Secretary McDonough updated Senator Hassan on how following their discussions, his team is working on critical projects at VA facilities in New Hampshire, including for an ambulatory surgical center and parking. He committed to continuing to work with Senator Hassan on these and other upcoming projects.
Addressing Toxic Exposure
In addition, Senator Hassan urged Secretary McDonough to develop a questionnaire for primary care appointments to help determine whether a veteran may have been exposed to toxic substances during their service. This provision is included in Senator Hassan’s TEAM Act that fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the VA.