Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje
It's a longstanding problem on Guam, which has deprived Guam U.S. military veterans--whether they know it or not--of benefits and services due them, because authorities simply haven't figured out how many of them are present. 2010 census data suggests more than 8,000, while anecdotal evidence and past efforts to register vets suggest that number is a severe undercount.
Simply put, if the Veterans Administration doesn't know how many vets there are, the results may include a VA clinic far too small and understaffed for its potential clientele. And that's what many vets have complained has happened.
Another vets registry is underway and on Monday, the Guam Legislature unanimously passed Bill 217-34 (COR), introduced by Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje and co-sponsored by Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez Jr. and Senator Tom Ada, which is aimed at helping to update the registry.
The bill, now going to Governor Calvo for action, mandates Government of Guam entities that are providing benefits or services to the veteran community, to forward a copy of the proof of veteran status to the Guam Veteran Affairs Office for the purpose of updating the Guam Veteran Registry. Amendments were made to the bill on the session floor, to ensure that vets give “documented consent” to the transmittal of the proof of veteran status to the GVAO.
Some local veterans have chosen not to participate in the registry or various VA programs.
According to Speaker Terlaje, Bill 217-34 (COR) is an effort to help bolster the GVAO’s outreach efforts to veterans and their families and strengthen the case for increased funding for veteran services, which was the intent of the previous 32nd Legislature when the Guam Veteran Registry was created.
“I thank my fellow senators, particularly my veteran colleagues, the GVAO and the veteran community for providing their feedback and support to make the long-awaited registry and the benefits it may bring to veterans a reality,” stated Vice Speaker Terlaje.