Senators Introduce Bill to Expand Healthcare for Veterans in Pacific Region

April 29, 2019, 10:53 AM HST (Updated April 29, 2019, 10:53 AM)
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Sens. Brian Schatz and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the Compacts of Free Association Veterans Review Act on Monday, April 29, 2019. This legislation would create a three-year pilot program to provide hospital care and medical services to veterans living in the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia—all countries that have entered into the Compact of Free Association with the United States. The program would be part of a broader study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs on whether a permanent VA facility should be established in these countries.

“We made a promise to veterans when it comes to healthcare,” said Sen. Schatz, lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. “This bill offers a responsible path forward to giving men and women who served the care they deserve, no matter where they live.”

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“If someone puts on the uniform to serve our nation through service in the military, they should be awarded the same benefits of other service members, no matter where they live,” Sen.Murkowski said. “The reality is those in the U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States face a need for access to healthcare, something of which Alaskans can relate. We’ve made progress in Alaska to ensure our veterans have access to care, closer to home, and my goal is that we do all we can to ensure all our veterans receive the care they need and deserve.”

Sen. Murkowski is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has oversight jurisdiction of the U.S. territories and federal financial assistance to the Freely Associated States.

Veterans living in Pacific Freely Associated States often travel long distances and pay for expenses out-of-pocket to receive care. With the use of telehealth and other health services, the pilot program would deliver direct care to these veterans. It would also contribute data to a study on whether a permanent VA facility should be established as part of the U.S. diplomatic missions in these countries. As part of the study, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would be required to update census information on the number of veterans residing in these countries.

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