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Amata asks VA Secretary about Interagency cooperation to boost Veterans’ services

Congresswoman Amata speaks with Secretary McDonough virtually
Source: Media release from Cong. Uifaatali Amata's office

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata welcomed testimony and responses from Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough in a March 25 hearing. In her statement, Congresswoman Amata highlighted the needs of U.S. Veterans in the Freely Associated States (FAS), distant from common VA facilities. Her separate question to the Secretary focused on the need for interagency cooperation to expand availability of services for Veterans in American Samoa and elsewhere.

Secretary McDonough responded, “Thank you very much for the question – talofa, I’m happy to see you again. The short answer is yes, I’d be happy to explore the kinds of interagency cooperation you’re talking about.” He went on to highlight recent success of interagency efforts on vaccine distribution, with the strength  of local cooperation, “which is vitally important to expand care.” He pointed out the growing possibilities through the use of telehealth platforms, “which have just exploded as we’re all familiar now, during the course of the pandemic. I think there’s really important lessons to draw from this experience, and really important lessons that may allow us to expand this even more aggressively.”

In her remarks, Congresswoman Amata said, “Congratulations on your new post, and I look forward to working with you on behalf of our country’s Veterans. I also want to recognize an important VA responsibility in the Pacific island nations of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). These Freely Associated states are among the closest mutual security alliances between the U.S. and any nation. COFA enables qualified FAS citizens to serve in the U.S. military service. FAS volunteer enlistments often have been higher per capita than in any state of the union. FAS citizens served with honor, suffered casualties, and were killed in action alongside U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of these FAS veterans return from service disabled. These allies have earned and are morally entitled to VA services that are not easily provided to veterans residing outside the U.S. in the FAS. This is despite some of the remarkable and resourceful efforts of VA employees to extend the reach of the VA in the FAS by every possible means. We need to consider expansion of digital technology and intensification of internet-based support for health care services and I am happy to see, Mr. Secretary, that you touch on the use of technology in response to COVID19. Hopefully, VA will also continue to leverage new technologies post pandemic to address the needs of remote veterans both in the FAS and in the territories.”

Secretary McDonough reiterated the VA’s commitment to Veterans in the FAS.