The Maine Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the Veterans Administration (VA), Friday, 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.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included the Maine Veterans Homes logo and a photo of its Caribou facility. The Maine Veterans Home is not associated with the Veterans Administration.