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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

VA Secretary Visits Bethel

and Kwigillingok, to honor surviving members of the Alaska Territorial Guard.
In Bethel, at the City Office, Secretary Shihseki, hosted on his visit to Alaska by Senator Mark Begich held a listening session.
Not a big crowd, in fact the Vets there were outnumbered by VA and Senate staffers, but we certainly had the Secretary's attention.
The local VFW was well represented and questions included how to bring more village Vets into the VA system, especially since, as Buck Bukowski said, if a Veteran ISN'T collecting VA benefits, and they go tot he local hospital for services, then the cost comes off the top of IHS funding for the health provider.
Shinseki agreed and encouraged maximum enrollment in the VA - "Our budget is numbers driven," he pointed out.
I spoke up for Coast Guard LORAN Veterans and Navy guys stationed at Navy Radio Transmitting Facilities who, like Coasties, may have been exposed to dangerous levels of Xray energy from the final amplifier tubes in the transmitters we tended with such loving care. Shinseki promised to "get smart" on the issue.

It was pointed out to the Secretary and Senator that since the Alaska National Guard out here is now part of a Texas (yes, THAT Texas) airborne unit, and is being deployed to Afghanistan later this year, that the loss of a humvee full of Yup'ik soldiers could have a devastating effect on a single village.
Shinseki, General Shinseki agreed that while that is the risk of deploying Guard units, also said, "I don't see a solution."
Begich didn't respond.
I wanted to say...wait for it...