VA Choice Program voted down in US Senate; Guam’s veterans await alternative legislation

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“Veterans’ lives are on the line right now, and here on Guam and the Northern Marianas we depend on care outside the VA Clinic.”

Guam – With only two days of session left, Rodney Cruz, a veteran advocate, says the US Senate’s deliberation will ultimately seal the fate for Guam’s most vulnerable veteran population.

Last week, Cruz says the VA Choice Program was voted down in US Senate, a measure which had previously aided veteran communities across the nation seek care outside their VA clinic.

To put the issue into perspective, Cruz says Guam’s closest veteran hospital is about 8,000 miles away.

That reason alone was enough for veterans like Cruz to get behind the US legislation, which he says cuts down critical wait time for veteran health care.

“And that’s the trouble for us currently: we have to seek care outside of the VA clinic in Agana,” explained Cruz, adding, “Veterans’ lives are on the line right now, and here on Guam and the Northern Marianas we depend on care outside the VA Clinic because the VA clinic can’t provide that.”

And if the VA legislation does expire, veterans here will have no choice but to rely on the previous referral program –a reality Cruz hopes veterans don’t have to face.

“The backlog and the wait time, it’s ridiculous: 180 days out. There are veterans out there who have appointment wait times as far as six months out. And just to make it very clear, the whole creation of the Choice Program was to eliminate wait times at the VA clinic. Choice has helped reduce that.

In the meantime, Cruz is calling on local lawmakers to draft a resolution highlighting this issue.