LEWISTON, Maine — Just hours before he was to visit with veterans and top officials for the Veterans Administration’s Vet Center programs, Maine’s 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin announced he was introducing a bill aimed at helping rural veterans.

Poliquin, a Republican, said Tuesday his bill, Helping Our Rural Veterans Receive Health Care Act, would allow hospitals outside the VA’s system to enter contracts to provide care for veterans through the system, giving veterans easier access to local care options.

Poliquin’s legislation builds on a pilot program authorized by Congress in 2011 that tried the idea with five hospitals around the country. Because that program, dubbed Access Received Closer to Home, or ARCH, proved to be a “major success,” Poliquin said it was time to expand the program.

“Maine is home to many Veterans who answered the ultimate call of duty to protect our freedoms and liberties,” Poliquin said in a prepared statement. “Forty percent of the 22 million veterans in the United States live in rural areas. That’s why I introduced the Helping Our Rural Veterans Receive Health Care Act to help make the ARCH program permanent and expand the program to more rural hospitals across the country.”

Poliquin said by allowing rural hospitals to enter pre-negotiated contracts with the VA, more rural veterans and their families will receive the benefits and health care they deserve.

“With so many VA programs under scrutiny for mismanagement, it’s important that we expand the programs that are successful and common sense,” Poliquin said.

Poliquin was set to meet with officials from VA’s Vet Center program at the Lewiston Vet Center at 10 a.m. Tuesday.