Information and claims assistance will be available in new monthly field visits to Hilo & Kona
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, announced today that the VA regional office in Honolulu has agreed to provide face-to-face benefits information and claims assistance for neighbor island veterans and their families in monthly field visits to Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, and quarterly visits to Molokai. VA took action as a result of a letter from Chairman Akaka to VA Under Secretary for Benefits Daniel L. Cooper. Akaka expressed his concern that neighbor island visits had been curtailed, asked for an explanation, and encouraged Cooper to reinstate the visits.
"These field visits will allow neighbor island veterans who can not travel to Oahu for physical or financial reasons an opportunity to get the face-to-face assistance in obtaining benefits and services they need and deserve," Akaka said. "I commend Under Secretary Cooper for taking action to provide personal access to veterans on those islands."
Veterans are encouraged to make appointments for assistance during the monthly, or quarterly, VA visit to their islands.
The VA has released the following schedule:
Senator Akaka's letter is copied below:
The Honorable Daniel L. Cooper
Under Secretary for Benefits
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Admiral Cooper,
I am certain that you share my concern about benefits and services provided to veterans residing in rural areas. I am particularly concerned about veterans living on the neighbor islands of Hawaii - Molokai, Lanai, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii.
I recently received a letter from the "Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans" service organization. The letter specifically noted that "[t]here is a large gap in the ability of ... veterans to meet with a veterans benefits counselors." According to the letter, visits to the neighbor islands by employees of the Honolulu Regional Office have been curtailed.
While I understand the necessity of utilizing resources in the best way possible, I believe that there must be some accommodation for veterans who are unable to get to the Honolulu Regional Office where face-to-face assistance can be conducted. Why was this policy of not sending counselors to the neighbor islands instituted, and what plans, if any, are in place to reinstate visits to these locations?
Thank you for your attention to this request. I look forward to continuing to work with you on behalf of our Nation's veterans.
DANIEL K. AKAKA