At a Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on March 31, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski questioned the services that Alaska veterans receive.
Her question was a follow up to about the progress since she initially questioned the services in April 2010.
Alaska veterans are unable to get the proper care they may need in Alaska and continue to be forced to travel to Seattle to receive the care that they need.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and the VA’s Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Robert Petzel, assured Murkowski that the VA is working to improve this situation.
“We are going to look very closely at why we would send a veteran on a 2,000 mile journey if there is competent, safe, health care available close by,” Shinseki told Murkowski in April 2010.
Then on March 31, Petzel informed the Alaskan Senator that he was not pleased with the progress that had been made over the past year. “I think there are more things that can be done. You have my promise we are going to look much more carefully at being able to provide more of the care in the community. There will be an occasional thing where it might be in the veteran’s best interest to travel outside Alaska for care. We will do a better job in looking for alternatives in the community.”
Funding is an apparent issue, as Shinseki shared that the VA is paying $4 billion a year for veteran care that cannot be delivered in VA facilities, a figure that will rise significantly in 2012-2013.
A commitment was made by the VA to improve access to care through the Alaska Native health system for Alaska veterans.