Groups continue plea for better treatment for island veterans - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Groups continue plea for better treatment for island veterans

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Following last week's hearing calling for an investigation into the healthcare provided veterans on island, organizations continue to speak out about the issue.

According to Rodney Cruz, president of the Iraq Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific, the healthcare system provided for those who served our country is failing veterans in Guam. "This is what we want: the good quality healthcare excellence that the VA has promised, but they forget to tend where we are at, because we're located in Guam and it's a US territory," Cruz argued.

Cruz said there is not only a shortage of personnel at the Guam Community Based Outpatient Clinic, and Guam Vet Care, but that it can take months for referrals for medical care to be approved in Hawaii - the regional VA office that encompasses Guam. Guam is also exempt from the Choice Program, which provides greater healthcare options to veterans nationwide. Cruz said these shortages and access barriers have led to serious consequences, including what he alleges is the wrongful death of an Afghanistan veteran.

He said, "In reality, this veteran was diagnosed with severe PTSD and he was denied healthcare several times and his care only came to him at the very last minute and he ended up dying right before Memorial Day. I'm not talking about veterans who are receiving good quality care - I'm talking about there was one veteran that was let down by the system, and one is too many for us."

He added, "Our older generation, like the Vietnam veterans, some of these guys are under dialysis, cancer treatment, all from exposure from Agent Orange, and you cannot delay care for a veteran who really needs serious treatment and long-term treatment. And most of these veterans will end up in the hospital, in the ICU because of that. And so that's become the biggest issue in Guam."

But although it affects veterans locally, Cruz says it's an issue that needs to be dealt with at the federal level. He wants Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo to advocate on behalf of all veterans and their families on island, and thinks a permanent solution, such as better incentives to attract doctors, and providing a regional office in Guam, instead of Hawaii, is needed. He pleaded, "This is about our fellow brothers and sisters who we served with that doesn't get that has been denied care or has been delayed care.

"Most importantly it's about our soldier, our son, who was an afghan veteran who was a wrongful death and he had died at the hands of the VA."

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