Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Congress seeks to address the health needs of veterans from the freely associated states – Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The bill, titled “COFA Veterans Act,” would direct the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to carry out a three-year pilot program to provide hospital care and medical services to veterans living in the FAS as well as contribute data to a broader feasibility and advisability study on whether a permanent Veterans Affairs facility should be established in these countries and require the VA secretary to update census information on the number of veterans residing in the FAS, among other things.
“All of our Veterans the world over need our strong support and commitment,” said American Samoa Rep. Aumua Amata, one of the co-sponsors of the bill introduced by Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
Other co-sponsors of the bill were Rep. Don Young, Rep. Ed Case and Guam Rep. Michael San Nicolas.
“Veterans have answered the call and put their lives on the line in service to our nation. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude and must ensure they get the care they earned and deserve, no matter where they live,” Gabbard said “The COFA Veterans Review Act is a first step toward ensuring our country fulfills its commitment to care for all our veterans.”
Young said those who are willing to put their life on the line to defend the United States should have access to the health care benefits they have earned.
“Too many U.S. Military veterans in the Pacific – including those in the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia – do not have access to VA health care facilities or are forced to pay significant sums out of pocket and travel long distances to access care,” Young said.
Case said a promise made to servicemembers should be a promise kept. “If they need to access the medical care promised, then we need to assure they are not prevented from doing so by the time and cost of travel to the care they need,” he said.
FSM President David Panuelo said the bill, if enacted into law, “would reduce current barriers to care for thousands of veterans, who have honorably served in the U.S. military.”