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Legislature to hear veterans' concerns

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by Briana Santos, for KUAM News

Guam - Veterans say there's a need for reform at the Veterans Affairs Office, and their concerns will be heard by senators this week.   Financial matters related to the VA Office will be among the issues discussed next week when Senator Tom Ada holds an oversight hearing.

The oversight chair is specifically calling the hearing to discuss Fiscal Year 2010 expenditures and encumbrances that have been made by the Guam Veterans Affairs Office, budgetary lapses projected for the current fiscal year and a recent $150,000 appropriation from the Territorial Highway Fund to the office.  Ada says the hearing is needed for a variety of reasons, noting, "For example, in last year's budget we had pushed to have staff added to oversee the cemetery operations and to date none has been hired and the process is really too slow."

Veteran advocate Tom Devlin feels that one reoccurring issue that must be addressed right away is the poor maintenance of the Guam Veterans Cemetery, telling KUAM News, "We don't want a blame game, we want facts. If the money is there where is it, if you need more people, why can't you get the people. It seems that the reason everyone seems to give is we have no money, but the legislature seems to budget money. Where is the money? That's the biggest question and the veterans have a right to know what's going on."

He adds that the oversight hearing is long overdue and wants to see immediate action taken to improve the upkeep of the Guam Veterans Cemetery.

Daniel Mendiola, Vice President for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 668 agrees, saying, "The problem is there's no definite funding that's set aside continually to address the problems that we have there such as maintenance which is a recurring problem, constantly."

Senator Ada is also hoping to get a timeline on when the VA Office will establish its web site, which is required by Guam law. The oversight hearing is scheduled for June 23 at 5:30pm at the Legislature's Public Hearing Room.

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