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Top VA Official Visits Maine, Acknowledges Choice Program Issues

AUGUSTA, Maine - The top health official at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in Maine today. During a visit to the VA center at Togus, Dr. David Shulkin said that the Choice health program, set up two years ago, is too complex and confusing.

Shulkin said every veteran got a Choice card without a clear understanding that there were specific criteria for using them to get care in a community setting rather than visiting the nearest VA facility.

"We are asking for legislative approval to make those changes, to make it simpler," Shulkin said. "We think that when people are confused by the rules of the program it prevents people from getting the health care they need."

Shulkin will also visit Aroostook County before returning to Washington. At Togus he met with Sen. Angus King and representatives of veterans groups upset with the program. Shulkin said progress is being made.  A few months ago, veterans in Maine won approval for only 400 visits to local health care providers.  He said that is now up to 1,000 visits a month.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.