VA director fires back at Senator Barnes - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

VA director fires back at Senator Barnes

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by Jolene Toves

Guam - Guam Veteran's Affairs director John Unpingco is firing back at Senator Tina Muna Barnes after she demanded answers to myriad of concerns she's received from veterans about the state of disrepair and unsanitary conditions at his Asan office.  

As we reported Senator Barnes says some of the concerns she's received include multiple reports of non-functioning air conditioning units, the lack of telephones and the lack of basic office equipment to service constituents. Another concern involved the lack of running water in the toilets due to sewage backflow which results in water being stored in large garbage cans. However Unpingco says he was not given an opportunity to respond and that Barnes does not have all the facts in order and has jumped the gun.

He said, "First of all it is not sewage backflow it's a broken pipe underneath this building the broken pipe pushes up through the pipes on the side here and sometimes there is bits and particles that get trapped up in the pipe."

Unpingco says the telephone issue has been resolved but the unfunctioning air conditioning units has been a constant problem and they are taking steps to resolve the other issues, but there are other factors beyond his control that are slowing that process. "We are working with GSA to procure the plumber to fix the plumbing problems this is procurement law I cannot escape this now this is we are on the second round of inquiries to various plumbing companies," he said.

He adds that a plumber did assess the situation at the office but once he was made aware that payment would be through government purchase order he declined saying the government takes far too long to make payments. He says at this time there has are still no bidders. He clarifies that the VAO's budget did get double by the legislature but it went mainly to personnel costs leaving hardly enough for operations.

"Yet she is content to sit back and wait for us to do something about it well we are doing something about it and I'm sorry it takes so long but that is the process," he said.

He says the VAO has been low on the list of priorities and now that there is a surge of veterans they want everything done at one time and asks Barnes not to turn the VAO into a political football.

"If you are going to be a defender of the vets you need to do something to help the vets not just to sit back and wait for things to happen we have had to make up for years and years of neglect," he said.

While the building is deteriorating Unpingco says their services are not in fact they are the best it has been in years as progress is being made for the Veterans. He asks Senator Barnes to be a champion for the Veteran Affairs office and do something and not pass the buck. 

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