In the Military
Veterans' care a focus of statewide hearings
The status of veterans' care and benefits in Hawaii will be the subject of four Honolulu and neighbor island hearings planned by the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs next month.
There are 40,759 veterans in Hawaii older than 65, but only 60 VA nursing home beds in the state. Nearly all the beds at the VA Center for Aging are filled on any given day.
The first hearing will take place at 10 a.m. Jan. 9 at the Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue, said U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who will host the hearings.
Akaka spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said experts in mental health and substance abuse would present testimony, as well as other medical specialists and representatives of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and of veterans groups on each island.
"Although the public won't be allowed to present oral testimony," Dela Cruz, "the staff (of the Senate committee) will accept written comments and be available to talk privately with any veteran who has a problem or questions."
Dela Cruz said the Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), would focus on issues specific to each island.
On Kauai, for instance, there is a problem with access to long-term care, she said, including a lack of hospital beds and doctors.
The hearing will move to Maui on Jan. 10, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Cameron Center Auditorium in Wailuku. Veterans living on Lanai and Molokai have been asked to share their stories, she said, because access to health care facilities is a key issue on those islands, where veterans have to be treated on Maui.
On Jan. 11, the Honolulu hearing will focus on statewide health care and benefits. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the DAV Hall, near Keehi Lagoon at 2685 North Nimitz Highway.
The last hearing will be held in Hilo on Jan. 13 in the state Department of Labor conference room. That session, also at 10 a.m., will deal in part with the relocation of the mental health clinic to Honolulu. Substance abuse experts will attend the session to discuss problems facing veterans.
"There are nearly 105,000 living veterans in Hawaii," Dela Cruz said. "More than 80,000 served during a time of war. A majority of these vets are from the Vietnam era. Some 14,000 Hawaii residents have been deployed to Southeast Asia.
"Current estimates indicate that up to 30 percent of returning service members will require some mental health or readjustment counseling. Of the 25 percent to 30 percent of the vets receiving mental health services from the Hawaii VA, over one-third are diagnosed with debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a significantly higher percentage than is found in other VA medical centers."
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"In the Military" was compiled from wire reports and other
sources by reporter Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for
the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. He can be reached can be reached by phone
at 294-4075 or by e-mail at email@example.com