Wailuku, Maui - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today told U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) and Ranking Member Daniel K. Akaka that it will lift restrictions on home care services. In June 2005, Senator Akaka requested an Inspector General investigation of allegations that the Maui Clinic was not providing certain services to veterans, such as home care.
Senator Akaka asked VA officials for a commitment of funding to Hawaii to cover these costs.
Today's hearing focused on the State of VA Health Care provided to veterans on Molokai, Lanai and Maui. VA also announced other changes taking place.
Dr. Jonathan Perlin, VA Under Secretary for Health, stated, "VA is working to establish telehealth capabilities from Molokai. VA will place an order for telehealth equipment and is working to identify the location for the telehealth activities. VA will also explore the possibility of sharing telehealth capabilities with non-VA providers in exchange for local services for services for veterans."
Senator Akaka stressed that VA must tailor its strategy to reach all of Hawaii's veterans. "I developed a bill that would ensure a greater presence on the islands of Molokai and Lanai, which currently lack VA facilities altogether," stated Senator Akaka. "I am glad that VA is taking steps to address concerns raised in my bill. Today, veterans on remote islands must either wait for a VA provider to visit - which is only nine to ten times a year for Molokai and four times a year for Lanai - or take it upon himself to get here on Maui for clinical care or to Oahu for treatment for a more serious condition."
Maui County Veterans Council President, Rogelio Evangelista, said, "Our Community Based Outreach Clinic, on all the neighbor islands, even with the experienced and dedicated staff, are underpaid in comparison with the mainland VA staff, and they are also overworked."
Molokai veteran, Larry Helm, added the severe need of psychological services. "I hope the government does not water down the treatment for (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of budget restraints; especially for the returning veterans."
Chairman Craig concluded today's hearing stating, "The Committee is here today because of Danny Akaka. You have one of the loudest advocates in Washington, D.C. You watched a classic case of Danny getting a panel of officials to assure that services he's fought for are being provided for or are enroute."
Senator Akaka continue the Committee's statewide hearings on the State of VA Care in Hawaii TOMORROW on Oahu at 10:00 a.m. at the DAV Hall located Keehi Lagoon, 2685 N. Nimitz Highway.