(Press Release) Senator Frank F. Blas Jr. today met with a Deputy Undersecretary of the U.S. Office of Veterans Affairs regarding assistance for veterans living on Guam and other geographically-disadvantaged areas.
Senator Blas and other lawmakers met with Thomas J. Murphy, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, this morning at the legislature. Discussion from the meeting centered on Resolution No. 302-33 that Senator Blas authored earlier this year. The resolution, which was unanimously passed on May 3, urges Congress to introduce and adopt legislation that would create a special category that provides increased compensation for our veterans.
“The Deputy Undersecretary was briefed on how the current level of service rendered by the Federal government to our veterans is a disservice to the American veterans who chose to reside on Guam and other geographically-challenged regions such as the CNMI, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshal Islands and American Samoa,” Senator Blas said. “Although for many years our region’s veterans have waited patiently for the treatment and services afforded to their comrades elsewhere, their patience should no longer be taken for granted.”
Senator Blas informed the Deputy Undersecretary that although treatment and even airfare for veterans who need medical treatment are funded by the U.S. government, there are numerous other costs associated with obtaining off-island medical treatment while maintaining their residences on their islands. The resolution seeks to offset these costs. “While generally the disability rating that a veteran receives is tied to the mental or physical disability he suffers from, the time difference and distance that a veteran from our region has to travel to access services should be recognized as an additional factor that the veteran has to contend with,” Blas said.
The Senator added that the Deputy Undersecretary was visiting the region and even met with veterans in Chuuk who also discussed the financial difficulties they face when needing to go to Hawaii for medical treatment. Today’s visit on Guam is the culmination of his trip throughout the region and Murphy told lawmakers this morning that he now understands the difficulties our veterans have since he has personally met with them and has witnessed first-hand the struggles they face.
“I was very encouraged by our dialogue this morning as he indicated that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may be able to address this issue through their Special Monthly Compensation program already in place,” Blas said. “Deputy Undersecretary Murphy indicated he will be bringing a copy of Resolution No. 302-33 to his meetings with other Veterans Affairs officials next week in Washington, D.C. in order to relay my concerns and attempt to address the matter.”