Feds ‘undercounting’ number of veterans on Guam; senator wants to help

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Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje (file photo)

Senator Jose Terlaje, in the budget hearing of the Office of Veterans Affairs, supported a $2.4 million budget request, as opposed to the $768,605 requested in their official budget request.

Veterans Affairs Director Tim Aguon said in testimony that the $2.4 million figure better reflects the needs of the agency, which maintains veterans cemeteries and employs benefit counselors to help veterans get all the benefits they deserve.

“The veterans of our island deserve more, the more veterans benefit counselors you have, the more veterans benefits and services we can get to our veterans. Our veterans deserve to be buried with dignity, with proper cemetery maintenance. It is the very least that we can do to honor their sacrifice,” said Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje.

Testimony at the budget hearing brought out that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs only counts 10,026 veterans living on Guam according to official numbers from the VA, while the Guam Office of Veterans Affairs records 28,273 veterans on Guam according to local records.

“It is important to reconcile our veteran count with the federal government’s count because the federal Veterans Affairs office is undercounting the number of veterans we have on Guam and that is resulting in fewer resources for veterans than we actually deserve,” said Terlaje. “We must fund the digitization, reconciliation, and security of our local records.”

Director Aguon said that they are looking to acquire 12 laptops for the office to be in compliance with database entry requirements for the Federal Veteran Administration Health and Benefits Program. The Guam Office of Veterans Affairs said their systems are not currently in compliance, specifically for the cybersecurity of those records.

The agency has vacancies for a Veteran Services Officer, an Administrative Service Officer, a Records Management Officer, a Guam Veterans Cemetery Maintenance Supervisor, and a Guam Veterans Cemetery Worker that were not included in their original $768,605 budget request but are critical to the objectives of the agency.

(Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje Release)

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For more information please contact the Office of Senator Jose “Pedo” Terlaje at 989-5301

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