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Senate Approves Defense Bill that Continues Veterans' Pilot Program

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate has passed a new version of the Defense Authorization Bill to replace one President Obama vetoed last month.

Sen. Susan Collins says an important provision for Maine veterans is continuation of the "Access Received Closer to Home - or ARCH - program.

"Rural veterans who often have a very difficult times accessing the regular VA health care system, particularly the VA hospitals, can receive care closer to where they live," Collins said.

The legislation authorizes $270 million for continuation of the program as a pilot in five states, including Maine. The Veterans Affairs department has recommended ending the program and focusing on establishing more VA facilities, instead of using local hospitals in rural areas for care.