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Sens. Moran, Collins and King Express Frustration with Ambiguity in VA Report on Continuity of Care

Senators Want Answers on Future of ARCH Program, Care for Veterans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – along with U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) today expressed frustration with Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) plan for the Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) program in a report delivered to Congress to consolidate all non-VA provider programs.

“Rural veterans in Kansas and across the country face significant challenges when accessing health care through the VA system,” Sen. Moran said. “The ARCH program has served as a bridge to access care for veterans in rural America. With more than 90 percent of veterans participating in ARCH overwhelmingly satisfied with the program, the VA should build on the program’s proven success. We will continue to press the VA until they commit to providing the uninterrupted access to quality health care our veterans deserve.”

“The ARCH program has made a real difference for our veterans in Maine and across our country. I remember one of our veterans telling me about breaking his hip last winter at the height of a terrible winter storm. Instead of enduring a painful and bumpy ride for more than four hours to get to the VA hospital in Augusta, he was able through the ARCH program to receive care at his local hospital, Cary Memorial in Caribou, Maine. He also had the benefit of being able to receive care closer to where his family and friends live,” said Sen. Collins. “We will continue to urge the VA to articulate a clear vision for the future of this critically important program and work to ensure that all veterans receive the health care they need close to home.”

“In a rural state like Maine, veterans can sometimes be forced to travel several hours just to get care at the closest VA facility, turning something like a simple check-up into a serious challenge, especially for older or disabled veterans. That’s not right, and it’s unfair to the men and women who bravely served our nation,” Senator King said. “The ARCH Program brought that care closer to home, and as veterans can attest, it’s been immensely effective in helping them access more timely and convenient health care services. Rather than sunset an enormously successful program, the VA should be looking for ways to expand ARCH – or, at the very least, use it as a model for how the Department can better deliver health care to veterans across rural America.” 

On Oct. 23, 2015, Sens. Moran, Collins and King urged VA Secretary Robert McDonald to commit to maintaining medical services veterans receive through ARCH and to build on the demonstrated success of the program as the VA developed the consolidation plan mandated by Congress. If the VA sunsets the program as proposed in the report, the consolidation plan leaves many questions and details that must be explained to ensure there is continuity in care for veterans who currently utilize the program.

Since 2011, the ARCH pilot program has been operating in five rural sites across the country. ARCH serves rural veterans by giving them access to health care from a community provider close to home instead of traveling several hours to seek care at a VA facility. The inclusion of a two-year extension of the ARCH program in the Choice Act helped to make certain rural veterans were able to continue accessing timely, high-quality care closer to home. 

Sens. Moran, King and Collins have been advocates for improved accessibility to health care for rural veterans through the ARCH program. In 2014, they sponsored the Choice Act, which implemented significant reforms at the VA and created the Choice Program – a pilot initiative based in part on the success of ARCH.