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Hon. Michael H. Michaud , Chairman, Subcommittee on Health, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Maine

The Subcommittee on Health will come to order.  I would like to thank everyone for coming today.

Today, we will examine the Department of Veterans Affairs programs regarding rural veterans, women veterans, and other special needs populations.

I am very happy to be here in Sanford, Maine this morning.  Sanford is the home of longtime veteran advocate, and someone who I was honored to call a friend, Roger Landry.  Roger worked in the legislature and in the VSO community here in Maine and was very well liked and respected by all.  Roger served his country and his community with great pride and honor.  Roger died last year and he is sorely missed.  I would like to dedicate this hearing to Roger Landry in honor of his work with and for veterans.

It is appropriate that we are having this hearing in my home state of Maine this morning.  Maine is a very rural state and because of this we face many unique challenges in providing health care to our veterans.  Many have to travel long distances for care, creating a significant burden for veterans and their families.

The VA has instituted some innovative programs to provide much needed services to rural veterans.  I look forward to hearing from our panel today about their ideas to improve access and decrease the travel burden for our veterans living in rural communities across the United States.

At this hearing, we will also hear about women veterans.  Women make up about 14% of active duty military, and consequently they are making up more and more of our veteran population.  Women have some unique health needs.  I look forward to hearing today about the unique needs of women veterans and to hear ideas about how the VA can improve their services targeted at women.

When the United States made a commitment to care for veterans, we made the commitment to care for all veterans - male and female, urban and rural.  Today,

I hope that we will learn how VA is meeting the needs of these populations, what challenges are on the horizon and what we can do to provide these veterans with the best possible care available.