As Togus Turns 150, We Recommit Ourselves to Serving Maine Veterans

 The men and women who serve our country in the military deserve the highest quality care when they return home. And for the last 150 years, the Veterans Affairs (VA) facility at Togus has set the standard for excellence in veterans health care.

 The caregivers at Togus always go the extra mile to provide quality and timely medical services to those who have served America. And on this remarkable milestone, we have an opportunity not only to celebrate and reflect on that work – but also to recommit ourselves to taking care of the veterans who have taken care of us. That is our promise to uphold; it’s what they’ve done at Togus for the last 150 years, and it’s something we must all continue to strive for each and every day.

 And while Togus does a fantastic job in Maine, one area that the VA can and must do better on the national level is the appeals process for disabled veterans seeking treatment. A disabled veteran doesn’t deserve a place on a waiting list, or to get caught up in a VA backlog – they deserve timely and quality care. But, too often, bureaucratic failures are unfairly penalizing veterans across the country and here in Maine.

 Today, there is a backlog of more than 450,000 appeals cases with veterans waiting an average of four years to complete the entire process and receive a final decision. That is unacceptable, plain and simple. There is an old saying: justice delayed is justice denied – and no veteran should be denied the services they’ve earned.

 Our veterans deserve a full, fair, and timely review of their appeals – and that’s why I’ve joined with a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressmen to introduce The VA Appeals Modernization Act. Our bill would eliminate bureaucratic hurdles that are contributing to this backlog – and it would do so by creating a new process that provides veterans with clear appeals options. This will help veterans better navigate the process so that it best fits their needs and can be expedited.

 To me, this fix is just common-sense. It’s no accident that the bill has the support of a long list of veterans service organizations, including the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the American Veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Together, we will all keep pushing for this bill – because our veterans fought for us, and we have a responsibility to fight for them.

The good news is that supporting our veterans is not a partisan issue. And while Democrats and Republicans often can’t seem to agree on the time of day, this is a case where we all agree. We may not always agree on the specific policies, but we all have the same goal. The VA Appeals Modernization Act has cosponsors from both parties, and I’m hopeful that we can get this common-sense fix across the finish line to support disabled veterans in Maine and across the country. 

 

As we celebrate and reflect on the 150-year legacy of Togus and its support for Maine veterans, we also rededicate ourselves to Abraham Lincoln’s commitment to care for those who have borne the battle. That’s what Togus has been doing for a century and a half, and it’s something I will continue to fight for in the Senate.