FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 9, 2016
Annie Clark (Collins) 202-224-2523
Scott Ogden (King) 202-224-5344
Andy Colvin (Pingree) (202) 527-4681
Brendan Conley (Poliquin) 202-225-6306
Maine Congressional Delegation Urges VA to Fill Vacancies at Maine Vet Centers
Caribou, Portland Vet Centers are currently understaffed
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Maine Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the Veterans Administration (VA) expressing concern about several long-unfilled vacancies at two Vet Centers in Maine. The letter from Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin urges the VA to fill those vacancies with qualified staff as soon as possible to ensure that Maine veterans have access to the quality and timely care they deserve.
“We understand that the Veterans Health Administration’s Regional Counseling Service is in the process of overhauling the human resources processes related to Vet Centers, and we support this effort to optimize the hiring practices,” the Maine Delegation wrote in their letter. “Nevertheless, the vacancies in Caribou and Portland have been open for far too long and need to be filled as soon as possible. Our veterans selflessly served the United States and their communities, and as such, they deserve access to the highest level of care when they return home. We urge you to fill these positions as soon as possible so that no veteran is denied the care they deserve.”
Maine has one of the highest number of veterans per capita of any state in the country. There are five Vet Centers across the state that are administered by the VA – in Bangor, Caribou, Lewiston, Portland, and Sanford-Springvale. These Vet Centers help veterans readjust to civilian life by providing free counseling, screening, and referral services, while removing the stigma of seeking mental health care.
However, the Caribou and Portland Vet Centers have had inadequate staff levels for months. While the Caribou Vet Center is authorized to have five employees, it has had multiple vacancies for some time, which has led to a lack of consistent counseling for veterans in Northern Maine. The Portland Vet Center currently has only four staff members despite being authorized for six, and lacks administrative staff. As a result, staff may have to cover both mental health needs while taking on additional administrative duties.
The delegation’s letter, which was addressed to VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin, also asks the VA to provide a timeline for the hiring process to fill these vacancies in Maine.
The letter is available HERE and the text is below:
Dear Honorable Dr. Shulkin,
We are writing to express our concerns regarding several, long-unfilled vacancies at two Vet Centers in the State of Maine. The Readjustment Counseling Service provides a variety of social and psychological services to veterans, and due to the current staffing vacancies at Vet Centers in Caribou and Portland, veterans are not receiving the level and consistency of care they deserve. This has unfortunately been a persistent problem, and we urge the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to act quickly to fill vacancies with qualified staff to ensure our veterans can access the quality care they have earned. We also ask that you provide us with a hiring timeline for filling these vacancies.
With one of the highest number per capita of veterans in the country, Maine has five Vet Centers. Of the five Vet Centers in Maine, the two in Caribou and Portland have had inadequate staff levels for months:
- Caribou, Maine: The Caribou Vet Center is tasked with serving the needs of Veterans throughout Aroostook County. While the Center is authorized to have five employees, it has had multiple vacancies for some time. This lack of availability of consistent counseling is a disservice to the Veterans in Northern Maine.
- Portland, Maine: The Portland Vet Center is authorized to have a staff of six, but currently has a staff of four and lacks administrative staff. As such, we understand that current staff may be covering both their jobs addressing mental health needs, as well as taking on the additional responsibilities of basic administrative duties.
We understand that the Veterans Health Administration’s Regional Counseling Service is in the process of overhauling the human resources processes related to Vet Centers, and we support this effort to optimize the hiring practices. Nevertheless, the vacancies in Caribou and Portland have been open for far too long and need to be filled as soon as possible. Our veterans selflessly served the United States and their communities, and as such, they deserve access to the highest level of care when they return home. We urge you to fill these positions as soon as possible so that no veteran is denied the care they deserve. If you have any questions about this request, please contact us directly or have your staff contact William Ellis (King) at 202-224-5344 or Mike Wakefield (Collins) at 202-224-3913.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this issue.
—– End forwarded message —–
Post expires at 7:14am on Wednesday January 11th, 2017