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Senator Hassan Presses VA Secretary to Ensure that NH Veterans Don’t Face Reduced Access to Health Care

Senator Hassan Also Shares Story of NH Veteran Diagnosed with Cancer to Underscore Need for Additional VA Training on Toxic Exposure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan pressed Denis McDonough, Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, to commit to protecting access to care for New Hampshire veterans following the release of VA recommendations that could limit veterans’ ability to get care at VA facilities in New Hampshire. Earlier this month, Senator Hassan led New Hampshire and Vermont Senators in calling on the VA to ensure that New Hampshire and Vermont veterans don’t lose access to care after the VA released recommendations to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. The recommendations to the Commission could risk moving the VA towards privatization and decrease access to VA care for veterans.


To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning click here.


“When we spoke a few months ago in this committee, you supported VA facility upgrades in New Hampshire, including expanding ambulatory surgical facilities in our state – but the VA’s recommendations to the AIR Commission risk moving in the opposite direction,” Senator Hassan said. “Can you please speak to the importance of preserving access to VA care in VA facilities – and what you will do to ensure that the AIR Commission will recognize that and avoid making changes to reduce VA care in states?”


“As I was looking at the New Hampshire recommendations, I was expressly thinking of the conversation I had with you at that moment because I did make a commitment to you,” Secretary McDonough responded.


Secretary McDonough told Senator Hassan that he is committed to working with her on this matter.


“And it’s really important obviously -- I’m committed to it, to make sure that our veterans in New Hampshire can get the care they deserve, they’ve earned, in our state,” Senator Hassan said.


Senator Hassan went on to share the story of an Afghanistan veteran from New Hampshire, Melanie Spears, who went to the VA after experiencing pain in her abdomen. After nearly a year of going to the VA, she was diagnosed just last month with cancer.


“Veterans exposed to toxic substances need health care, but they also need VA personnel to identify their conditions early on,” Senator Hassan said. “The Honoring our PACT Act includes a provision that requires the VA to provide training to VA health care personnel so they can identify, treat, and assess veterans exposed to toxic substances.”


Senator Hassan discussed the importance of creating a questionnaire that VA primary care doctors could use to screen for toxic substance exposure for veteran patients. Last month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Hassan and her colleagues to strengthen health care for veterans who served after September 11, 2001, including those who were exposed to toxic substances during their service. The bipartisan Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act and the House of Representatives’ Honoring our PACT Act include key pieces of Senator Hassan’s bipartisan bill, the TEAM Act, including a measure to require the VA to screen veterans for potential toxic exposure.