Home News Local news Little Response Monday to Veterans' Concerns

Little Response Monday to Veterans' Concerns

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Feb. 26, 2008 — At a sparsely attended hearing of the Committee on Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs Monday on St Croix, Sen. Celestino White, the committee chairman and a Vietnam veteran himself, said he was concerned about veterans being able to shop in the National Guard's tax discounted on-base store or PX. Representatives from the federal Veterans Administration, the San Juan Medical Center, the V.I. National Guard and local American Legion posts were invited to testify, but Office of Veteran's Affairs Assistant Director Harry A. Daniel was the sole testifier able to attend. Many of the witnesses are also schedule to testify at a similar hearing Tuesday on St. Thomas and White said he hoped they would show up for the second hearing.
"Confirm or deny, Mr. Daniels," said White. "There are federal employees right now who have never spent one day in the military … not even the Boy Scouts and they are entering the PX (base store) and shopping. But an honorably discharged veteran of ten years cannot go shopping there?"
Daniels said it was a policy set at some point in the past by the adjutant general of the Virgin Islands, who is in charge of the V.I. National Guard and V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency. Renaldo Rivera, the current adjutant general, could not attend Monday's hearing. Daniels works with veterans but is not in control of the PX or in the National Guard.
No legislation was pending and no votes were taken at the informational hearing.
Virgin Islands Veterans get much of their medical care through the federal Veteran's Administration's facilities in San Juan and one of the functions of the Veterans Office is to help with medical travel and work with local and Puerto Rico health officials to improve care and resolve complaints. Daniels said they also go to Puerto Rico to visit hospitalized veterans at least once a quarter. Sen. Usie Richards asked what could be done to provide more of the care locally.
"Dollars and cents are always involved in traveling," Richards said. "If we have local health care providers, X-Ray technicians, physiologists here, we could have some of that federal money spent within the territory so they don't leave. The most important end of it though is having the veterans here who are qualified and entitled to receive these services can have them at home and not have to travel."
Daniels agreed in principle, but had no immediate proposal or project.
The Office of Veterans Affairs was created March 10, 1955 by the first V.I. Legislature to oversee benefits provided by the territory for veterans.
Local benefits, include
— The opportunity to acquire a taxi medallion;
— Homestead real property tax exemption of up to $312.50;
— Veteran's home ownership loans;
— Free tuition at local educational facilities;
— Points added to local civil service examinations;
— Free burial plot in a local cemetery;
— Help with medical travel and burial expenses;
— and a variety of other benefits.

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