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Health council meets with Guam veterans

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 by Jolene Toves

Guam - It was an emotional first meeting for the Guam and Regional Health Council as members of the veterans community shared their frustration with the current health care available for veterans.

During that meeting the question was raised as to whether there is really a need to privatize a veterans hospital, behavioral center and veteran's clinic on island and according to chairman Peter Sgro all but one person was adamant that there is a need. He said, "Our entire council was shocked at what Senator Ada said - he basically said he doesn't believe in it because we don't have enough data and my response was look at the video that just showed our veteran's are crying they are not registering because they are frustrated and I don't know about you Senator Ada but I care and a lot of us care about the healthcare of our veterans."

In response, Senator Tom Ada clarifies his position when it comes to a facility that would benefit veterans he would be in support of it, saying, "But do we need the kind of facility that is being proposed I stated that I really wasn't sure because the data was just not there and that's my conservative nature now numbers were being asked about how many veteran's we have on island. And numbers ranged from 1,200 to as many as 27,000."

The Veteran's Affairs Office estimates that there are approximately 27,000 veterans, but only a fraction of them have registered, making it difficult to count. The senator says that according to the Veteran's Administration in Hawaii there are 7,000 registered veterans and based on this there is just not enough data. Ada says he just isn't convinced at this point that it is needed. He says, "It seems as if the thinking is build it and they will come" and some people are not convinced that would not be the case.

While Sgro agrees that the data is poor he says the senator has a fiduciary duty as a senator to help find the data. "You have the fiduciary duty to help find that data you have more resources then we do and we are using our own money and donating our time to this effort, and I was shocked. I mean, his whole premise for basically not supporting this is that the data wasn't there," he said.

"No, no," asserted Senator Ada. "It's not first of all the individual veteran it incumbent upon them to get on the website for benefits and to register themselves my part as senator I have introduced legislation to help facilitate the registration so that we can Identify who is the veterans.

"But to suggest that as a senator I have the fiduciary responsibility to get these data and get them registered is a bunch of bunk."

And while Ada says "show me the numbers", Sgro is adamant that they will get the data. He says the council will be conducting an islandwide veterans registration drive to make it convenient for veterans to register. The registrations will be held at malls, supermarkets, and other venues throughout the island. He says it is crucial that veterans register so that the data can be provided and the Veteran's Center for Excellence built. 
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