13 Oct 2017

US Pacific delegates highlight plight of military veterans

4:18 pm on 13 October 2017

The United States Congressional members from the three Pacific territories have called for an oversight hearing on American veterans living in the US insular areas as well as Samoa.

The request was made in a joint letter from American Samoa's Congresswoman, Aumua Amata; Guam's Madeleine Bordallo; and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Gregorio Kilili Sablan.

The letter to the US House Committee on Veterans Affairs, requests a hearing to look at the challenges facing those American veterans that reside in American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, Samoa, and the Freely Associated States.

Guam's representative to the US Congress Madeleine Bordallo

Guam's representative to the US Congress Madeleine Bordallo Photo: US House of Representatives

The congressional delegates said these areas get little help from the US Department of Veterans' Affairs.

The delegates also point out that veterans in the Pacific have to contend with much greater obstacles to access VA healthcare than veterans in the rest of the country.

For instance veterans in American Samoa have to travel to Hawaii for the most basic health care because of the rundown nature of both the local veteran's clinic and LBJ Hospital.

Veterans in American Samoa also face the unique challenge of not having direct flights to and from Hawai'i every day, forcing veterans to spend a minimum of three days away from home and often up to a week.

On Guam, veterans have limited services due to the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining of medical doctors, nurses, and staff, especially in the mental health field, and many must fly nearly 4,000 miles to Honolulu for treatment.

Veterans living in CNMI do not have a VA medical facility, dedicated medical and mental health professionals or a veteran centre to serve them.

VA health services are limited to two part-time contract physicians who are at capacity and unable to take additional veteran patients.