Maine’s two senators are co-sponsoring a bill that would authorize two dozen veterans’ medical facilities nationwide, including an expanded outpatient clinic in Portland.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, in conjunction with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, introduced legislation that would authorize leases for Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities in 15 states. Current law requires congressional authorization for any medical facility leases that cost $1 million or more annually. However, Collins and King said 24 lease arrangements are awaiting congressional approval, including 18 for last fiscal year and the current fiscal year.

One of those 18 is a lease for a new, expanded outpatient VA clinic in Portland. The clinic, which would replace and consolidate outpatient clinics in Portland and Saco, would be jointly run by the Maine VA, Maine Medical Center and Tufts School of Medicine.

Maine has only one dedicated veterans hospital – Togus in Augusta. However, the VA also operates outpatient clinics in eight communities throughout the state as a way to provide care to those who live in rural areas or far from Togus.

“Maine veterans deserve convenient access to high-quality health care services, but the longer this lease remains unauthorized, the longer veterans may have to wait to receive care – and that is unacceptable,” Collins and King said in a joint statement. “Congress needs to take action to ensure that we live up to the solemn promise we made to our nation’s veterans. Passing this bill would be a good first step.”

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