BANGOR (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Securing health care for tens of thousands of Maine's veterans.
A vote in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday evening, 347 to 70, went in favor of passing the VA Mission Act, a bill which reforms the VA Choice Program, allowing veterans to choose where they receive health care.
"It's dangerous, and it's urgent that this gets taken care of,” says veteran Joy Asuncion.
NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with veterans in the Bangor area ahead of the bipartisan vote in Washington, on how the outcome affects veterans here at home.
"If you live in Lubec, Maine, Togus is a long way away and so is Bangor, and there are veterans that need immediate health care,” says veteran and Commander of the American Legion Post in Bangor, Doug Damon.
Damon knows firsthand what veterans sacrifice during their service. He believes after coming home, they shouldn't have to sacrifice their health too.
"Our mission is to help veterans,” says Damon. “We hear all the horror stories. Many do without because it's not convenient or possible."
Without health care. There are VA hospitals in Maine, but they are not easily accessible to vets in Maine's rural communities.
This bill will enable veterans to go anywhere for care, with doctors guaranteed compensation.
"The problem is hospitals have been willing to help, however they haven't been paid,” says Damon. “With this new bill, now they have to be paid, they will be paid, so veterans will actually be welcomed in the hospital because they know they're going to get their bills paid."
“[It’s] so important that the funding is passed so [this choice program] can continue to make sure that all of our veterans get the health care that they deserve, what they fought for,” says Asuncion. “Now we need the Congress and the Senate to fight for us."
Congress passing the VA Mission Act in Washington Wednesday secures health care for the more than 67-thousand veterans living in Maine, even those living in the most rural areas.
The health care of thousands of area veterans is still on the line though, without a vote in favor in the Senate. If these reforms to the VA Choice Program do not pass next in the Senate, funding will cease at the end of this month.