The Guam Veterans Affairs Office says it serves a lot more veterans than the government is aware of.
And that’s affecting its budgetary needs.
The Guam Office of Veterans Affairs is requesting a $2.4 million budget.
That’s opposed to the department’s official budget request of more than $768,000.
Veterans Affairs Director Tim Aguon said that the $2.4 million figure better reflects the needs of the office.
During a budget hearing Wednesday at the Legislature, Senator Jose Terlaje said that federal figures count only about 10,000 veterans living on Guam.
Aguon said that his numbers are very different.
“Senator, I’m not sure about the date of the data … no those numbers are not correct. In fact, we can say today that there are 28,273 veterans on Guam that have active files in our office in Asan, which is the reason why that $2.4 million will right-size our agency, in order for us to provide the services that all the veterans require,” Aguon said.
Aguon said that his office is in the midst of reaching out to veterans to get them to register as well as get a more accurate count.
But he said it’s a process that won’t occur overnight.
“First…we had to clean it up. So we’re there. Now, we’re going to take it a step further, with all the files that we have, we’re entering a partnership with the state of Utah Veterans Affairs, to help us automate our system so that we can have the data available, instead of manually counting the amount of people that we have registered at the Office of Veterans Affairs. What it’s going to take, is extensive…continue the extensive community outreach, being accountable as the custodian of the data registry for veterans, and being able to send that message out, and make sure that we don’t leave any veteran behind, and that they’re fully aware of what their benefits are and what they’re eligible for,” Aguon said.