Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he met with Dr. Robert Wiebe, the top VA official, or Chief Network Officer, responsible for services in American Samoa, Hawaii, Guam, California, and Nevada, and thanked him for opening a new clinic for American Samoa’s veterans.
“For the past six years, Dr. Wiebe has worked with us every step of the way to help establish a VA clinic in American Samoa, and I am so thankful that after so many years of hard work and dedication, our new VA clinic will finally open next Monday,” Faleomavaega said. “This is good news for American Samoa’s veterans and our reservists, and in large part, we owe our new clinic to Dr. Wiebe.”
“Since 2001, Dr. Wiebe and I have left no stone unturned in doing what we could to establish a VA clinic in American Samoa. We repeatedly made our case to the US Department of Veterans Affairs and to Congress, and now the VA is set to invest
$2 to $3 million a year in American Samoa’s clinic.”
“About $500,000 annually will be used for staff salaries (plus benefits), $750,000 for pharmacy, $1 million for off-island specialty services, and about $500,000 for patient travel to obtain specialty services. As Dr. Wiebe has pointed out, these estimates assume that veterans will continue to be able to obtain in-patient care and support services (e.g., laboratory and x-ray) from the LBJ Tropical Medical Center without cost to the patients or the VA, as already agreed.”
“To prepare for our opening, the VA has already spent over $500,000 to renovate the Army Reserve Center. To construct a comparable building, it would cost the VA at least $4 million. With a $4 million building, and nearly $3 million per year being invested in services, I am hopeful our veterans will soon begin to see the benefits of our $7 million clinic and the invaluable services which it will provide year after year.”
“No price tag can be put on what it means to have access to quality healthcare. Access to quality healthcare is priceless and this is why I am so pleased that for the
first time in our history we now have a VA clinic in American Samoa to make sure our veterans begin to get the care they deserve. For this and many other reasons, I want to thank Dr. Robert Wiebe and also his associates in Hawaii including Mr. Dave Burge and Dr. James Hastings, former and current Directors, respectively, of the VA Regional Office in Hawaii.”
“I also want to again express my appreciation to the Army Reserve for honoring my request to turn over the old Army Reserve Center to the VA so that we could establish a clinic for our veterans. I also thank the CARES Commission which supported my testimony on behalf of our veterans in 2003.”
“I also thank my colleagues in the House and Senate including the Honorable Chris Smith, who at the time of his support was Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and the Honorable Lane Evans, Ranking Member, now retired. I also thank Senator Daniel Inouye and Senator Daniel Akaka, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. I also thank Governor Togiola and our local Legislature for their support.”
“As a result of our combined efforts, our VA clinic will eventually be staffed
with 6 people including one primary (or family medicine) physician, one mental health care provider, two nurses (one R.N. and one L.P.N.), one social worker, and one clerk.”
“Again, I cannot say enough that our veterans deserve the best services the VA has to offer and I look forward to being on-island for the dedication of our new VA clinic which is history in the making for our veterans who have borne the battle,” Faleomavaega concluded.
Photo: Faleomavaega with Dr. Robert Wiebe and other staff members from the VA.