WASHINGTON, D.C.—The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved yesterday a feasibility study for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical clinic in the Marianas.
The Marianas is the only U.S. insular area without full-time VA medical or mental health professionals serving veterans.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (ind-MP) authored the language, mandating a study be completed within 180 days, and included it in a larger bill, H.R. 5674, amended and passed by a vote of 20-2.
“My thanks to [committee chair] Phil Roe and ranking member Tim Walz and all the members of the committee for supporting my goal of building a VA medical clinic in the Marianas,” Sablan said. “This feasibility study is a necessary step I have been working on for some time.”
In addition to the Marianas clinic study, Sablan’s language (Section 213 of the bill) requires the Veterans Administration to report to Congress on the overall level of services the department provides to veterans living in all the Pacific insular areas: American Samoa and Guam, as well as the Marianas.
The VA must assess its capacities in four key areas: hospital care, medical, mental health, and geriatric services.
Sablan first introduced his report language as an amendment to H.R. 4243, the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review Act of 2017. Later, at Sablan’s request, his colleague, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico) offered the language as an amendment to H.R. 4242, the VA Care in the Community Act, which the Veterans’ Affairs Committee has also approved.
“Persistence—and, sometimes, setting multiple bills in motion,” Sablan said, “can make the difference between failure and success.
“The study mandated in H.R. 5674 will provide the committee with the information necessary to better understand the challenges of delivering care to veterans in the Marianas and other Pacific insular areas.
“With that understanding, Congress will be able to dictate the personnel and funding resources the VA needs to provide the quality care that veterans were promised, and have earned, on the islands they call home,” said Sablan.
H.R. 5674 includes a wide range of veterans’ policies. It provides an additional year of funding for the Choice program, which allows veterans in the Marianas or other remote areas to get medical services from private providers. It establishes a commission to make recommendations regarding the modernization or realignment of VA health facilities. And the bill expands the post-9/11 caregivers program to include pre-9/11 veterans over time. (PR)