Thursday, March 02, 2017

Editorial: Attention on Agent Orange good, but Guam veterans need better health care on island

Gov. Eddie Calvo scored a commitment from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt that the federal agency would help Guam in testing the island’s water sources and military bases for traces of the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange, which has been blamed for some of our military veterans’ illnesses.
Several military veterans who served in Guam during that war have come forward and stated that Agent Orange was used in Guam.
Karnig Ohannessian, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for the environment, has also expressed interest in discussing Agent Orange’s impact, the governor’s office stated in a press release yesterday.

Guam would like the federal government to help out with the cost of the testing, because of the island’s limited resources.
Also recently, House Senior Deputy Majority Whip Dennis A. Ross, from Florida’s 15th District, introduced an expanded Agent Orange legislation, which would grant presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to U.S. service members who served in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa during the Vietnam War.
The legislation is named after Master Sgt. Leroy Foster, of Florida, who has said he personally sprayed Agent Orange in Guam while serving at Andersen Air Force Base during the Vietnam War.
It’s not easy to get any federal agency’s attention when it comes to various matters pertaining to Guam, because population-wise and distance-wise, Guam just doesn’t have the political clout to command the attention of many of the nation’s policymakers.
It’s a good development that there’s some commitment from the federal government on Agent Orange testing in Guam.
In addition to Agent Orange, there are other pressing issues for our military veterans in Guam that beg for more attention and immediate action from Washington, D.C.
One of the issues in Guam for our military veterans is the inadequate health care services for our troops and military veterans on the island.
There have been times when a Guam military service member is severely injured or ill, but the veteran or service member had to stay away from the comfort of home and around family in Guam because of a lack of specialized medical care on the island, including for mental health.
This problem has been highlighted when some of our troops, who were injured during deployments in Afghanistan in recent years, had to stay in Honolulu for months, at times even more than a year, because the medical care they need isn’t available in Guam.
There has been talk about building a military veterans hospital in Guam, but these talks haven’t led to any project groundbreakings yet. 
This is one issue our island’s elected officials should also keep pounding on as they visit, make calls or write letters to the policymakers in Washington, D.C.
The governor may have some political points with Trump after the governor continued his support for the then-controversial presidential candidate, even when other national Republicans distanced from Trump.
Let’s hope one of the governor’s next meetings will be with the people in the VA in Washington, D.C., and that the meetings will lead to better health care and other quality-of-life issues for thousands of veterans and troops in Guam.

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