Akaka Takes Action to Address The Needs of Hawaii Veterans

Washington, D.C. -- Continuing his deep commitment to veterans across the country, Veterans' Affairs Committee Ranking Member Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) today introduced two bills that address veterans health care needs.

In an effort to improve health care for veterans in Hawaii, Senator Akaka introduced the Neighbor Islands Veterans Health Care Improvements Act of 2005, which calls for additional staff for vet centers in Hilo and Maui, creates a new vet center on Oahu, and establishes satellite clinics on the islands of Molokai and Lanai. The bill authorizes a VA medical care foster program for long-term care on Oahu and assigns additional clinic staff to community based outpatient clinics in order to provide non-institutional long-term care for veterans. The bill also enhances mental health care and services for veterans on the Big Island and authorizes the construction of a VA mental health center on Oahu. The bill authorizes a study on the demand for and access to specialized care and fee-basis care from VA for veterans on the neighbor islands.

"That our veterans receive the long-term care to which they are entitled is of major concern to me," said Senator Akaka. "This bill is vital to those veterans residing in Hawaii because it increases access to services. Federal policymakers are unaware of the many challenges faced by neighbor island vets due to the geography of our state."

Senator Akaka also introduced the Veterans Mental Health Care Capacity Enhancement Act of 2005, which mandates that spending on mental health care keep up with inflation. The bill also requires that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) carry out a number of measures designed to improve mental health and substance abuse treatment care at health care clinics across the country. Finally, the bill would also direct VA and the Department of Defense to cooperate in reducing the stigma associated with mental health or readjustment disorders.

Senator Akaka stated, "It has been estimated that anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of the men and women who are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will require treatment for a mental health issue -- VA simply must be prepared to handle the influx."

Senator Akaka's full statements are available on his Web site at http://akaka.senate.gov/.