Guam – On Tuesday, April 16, local veteran communities and organizations spoke directly to representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs who will be arriving on island in the coming weeks to assess the state of veterans affairs on Guam.
The town hall teleconference took place at 8:00 a.m. and was sponsored by the Office of Senator Regine Biscoe-Lee in an effort to allow the veterans themselves to explain the challenges they face.
“There’s a long laundry list of concerns – from RECA and radiation exposure; our health issues; our cemetery; access to benefits; VSO claims, all of these things. So it’s really important to have these conversations and continue to have it and to do our part. Also, to hold their feet to the fire.” Biscoe Lee said.
Increasing communications between Guam’s veterans and the office that serves them is the most effective way of addressing the physical distance between Guam’s VA and the federal office. Biscoe Lee believes this is the biggest obstacle.
“We’re getting together with Sen. Pedo Terlaje’s office, Chief Fred Bordallo at DVAO. And really try to help have these conversations be pushed along, especially in advance of big visits like the one we’re anticipating in the next few weeks,” she said.
She stated the importance of forging a connection with Veterans Affairs representatives and Guam’s veteran leadership. “It’s really important to connect them directly with these leaders… that will push this up further along the chain.”
Biscoe Lee noted that this was the first conversation of it’s kind that we’ve had with the officials. Tom Devlin, host of K57’s Vet Talk participated in the town hall and said that the questions mostly focused on the clinic.
But he said the one sentiment that was universally shared was that Guam’s veterans will not be letting the VA officials get off easy.
“These veterans, they’re 70 years of age now. The Vietnam veterans. These fellas at a young age didn’t get off easy. They were in Korea. They were in Alaska. They were in Vietnam – they were all over the place. They did not get off easy. They did things that people don’t even realize,” Devlin said.
Devlin dug in further saying, “They work for us 24/7… and we have to hold them accountable for that.”
Devlin added, “We don’t have to beat on them. We have to treat them with respect. But respect goes both ways. You have to respect the veterans community that served their country.”