Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the VA has finally agreed to support his and Senator Akaka’s request to pay LBJ Hospital for treatment of American Samoa’s veterans when their care or treatment is for service-connected illnesses and disabilities.
“For too long, our veterans have had to pay for part of their medical care at LBJ for service-connected illnesses and disabilities, and this was simply wrong,” Faleomavaega said. “To rectify this problem, Senator Akaka agreed to my request to send one of his most senior staffers from the Veterans Affairs Committee to American Samoa to review this and other problems associated with the administration of our VA program.”
“As a result of Ms. Mary Ellen McCarthy’s visit to the Territory last year, we have been in ongoing negotiations to work this out and, finally, the VA has agreed to do what is right and reimburse LBJ so our veterans will no longer have to pay for the services they are entitled to as a result of having ‘borne the battle.’”
“It is my understanding that it is now up to LBJ to finalize the agreement. In fact, in my discussions with Senator Akaka today, he said this will be a point of discussion at the health summit the US Department of the Interior is sponsoring which is being held in Honolulu from September 29-30. During the summit, the Secretary of the VA will meet with officials of LBJ to get this deal done.”
“While I regret that I was unable to accept US Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne’s invitation to attend the summit given that Congress is still in session and working to resolve the financial crisis, I do thank Senator Akaka and US Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake for their help in addressing this most critical matter for American Samoa’s veterans.”
“Senator Akaka is Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and has always supported what is best for our veterans and played an instrumental role in helping me with the establishment of a VA clinic in American Samoa that provides about $3 million in services for our veterans. When the local VA clinic is not able to provide the care or services needed, our veterans may be referred to LBJ if the care or services can be provided by LBJ. In such cases, VA and not the veteran should be responsible for the cost of care provided by LBJ and, thanks to the support of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, this will soon be the case.”
“Again, I thank Senator Akaka and I also thank Ms. McCarthy who went beyond the call of duty in identifying the depth of this problem. Like Senator Akaka, I am also pleased that “the VA has been pro-active in addressing the need to provide a way to pay LBJ for veterans’ care.”
The VA is responsible for providing medical care for veterans who have disabilities incurred or aggravated by service in the Armed Forces. Other veterans who do not have service-connected disabilities may also apply for VA health care. Eligibility will depend upon the veteran’s income, length of service and certain priority groups that VA has identified, such as for veterans with disabilities associated with recent service in combat. In those cases where VA is responsible for providing medical care, VA is allowed to enter into contracts to provide such care through private providers or other medical facilities.
“I appreciate the interest and effort of VA staff in developing this initiative and I hope that the administrators at LBJ will act swiftly to bring these discussions to a favorable outcome,” Faleomavaega concluded.