Washington D.C. – Guam and the other territories stand to benefit from 2 bills passed this past week by Congress.
Both the veterans health system reform measure and a stop-gap highway bill will provide funding to the territories.
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The $11-billion dollar stop-gap highway measure replenishes the highway trust fund, and will keep some six-thousand highway and transit projects funded, including those in the islands that depend on federal dollars.
Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to shorten the House passed bill’s 8 month timeline, so a long-term plan would be needed by December, before a possible GOP takeover of the Senate, and change in highway funding.
But time ran out and the Senate agreed with the House to keep temporary funding into next May, allowing federal dollars to continue flowing to local road projects.
Meantime, the Senate joined the House in passing a Bill to revamp the veterans health care system mired in scandal over extensive treatment delays and falsified scheduling records.
The bill on its way to the President, has $10-billion for veterans to seek care from non-VA health-care providers, if they’ve waited more than 30-days for an appointment, or, if they live more than 40-miles from a va medical center.
Guam has a VA facility, while the NMI only has a doctor under contract to the VA, making Guam’s facility the closest VA facility for Commonwealth residents.
Congressman Greg Kilili Sablan’s office says the VA bill would make veterans in the NMI seeking treatment, eligible to pursue care from non-VA providers.
But Sablan’s office also says some veterans might be eligible for VA-funded transportation to Guam, if the VA authorized their care.
Rota, for example, is closer to Guam than Saipan.
The bill passed by Congress would also spend just over $6-billion for added medical staff and emergency leases for extra space, especially in areas where veterans live far from the nearest clinic, like Saipan.
The measure would also boost care for troops who’ve suffered sexual trauma while serving in the military, and would extend a program to help veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries.