Alaska a Model for National VA

Senator Mark Begich | Fairbanks Daily News | June 29, 2014

...As a member of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans, I’ve been fighting for our veterans since my first day in the Senate. I was disgusted in February when Republicans killed a bill that, among other provisions, would have opened more than two dozen new VA medical facilities to help a health system overburdened by the influx of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the same people who supported two unfunded wars that cost thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars insisted that we couldn’t afford the veterans relief bill. They voted no. The terrible headlines of recent weeks tell us just how much we need those facilities, and why more resources are needed. Perhaps this time the full Senate will step up and vote to improve the VA system.

Alaska is a very good model for the rest of the country. That was my second message to my colleagues. We didn’t wait for CNN headlines to tell us what was going on with the VA in Alaska. And now the latest compromise bill includes several of the ideas we started to help Alaska’s veterans. We are home to 77,000 vets. That’s the highest proportion of veterans in the country – more than 13 percent of our entire population.  With many of them living in rural communities off the road system and hundreds of miles from the nearest VA clinic, the agency and its partners have developed innovative programs to make sure our vets get the care they earned and deserve...