U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District announced Monday that he’ll join the committee overseeing the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It’s an agency of outsized importance in Maine: The second-term Republican represents a congressional district that was projected in 2015 to be one of only 63 with 65,000 or more veterans — the most of any district in New England.
He follows his predecessor — Democrat Mike Michaud — onto the committee. Michaud served as the ranking Democrat on the committee before he vacated his seat to run unsuccessfully for governor in 2014, when Poliquin first won the 2nd District seat.
The VA has key infrastructure in Maine, including a statewide hub at Togus and the Access Received Closer to Home program in Aroostook County. The latter started in 2011 as a pilot project that allows area veterans to be treated there instead of at facilities hundreds of miles away and was extended by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2016.
Poliquin and the rest of Maine’s congressional delegation has lobbied for a permanent extension. He was highly critical of the VA after long wait times were reported in a health care program for rural veterans last year and when a federal watchdog dinged Togus in 2015 for mishandling requests for care.
In a statement, Poliquin said he’s “thrilled to continue to work” on Maine veterans’ behalf and to “use my direct role on this committee to hold the VA accountable.” He also serves on the House Financial Services Committee.