Akaka says help needed for families of war vets
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should do more to help the families of National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, Sen. Daniel Akaka said yesterday.
Akaka, D-Hawai'i, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, held the hearing to get ideas from those who spent time on the front line on how to further help men and women who come home from war zones with injuries. The hearing was held at the Oahu Veterans Center in Salt Lake.
Akaka told the audience of about 150 people that a home health care bill he introduced was passed out of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and could be up for a vote before the full Senate next month.
"No question, from what I've heard this morning, the family is the essence of helping veterans recover," Akaka said.
He said his home health care bill calls for providing caregivers with training and a stipend.
A World War II veteran himself who saw action in the Marianas and on Saipan, Akaka said Congress must stand behind its veterans by providing the necessary funding to make sure all of their needs are met.
Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, who gave up her seat in the state Legislature to join the Hawai'i Army National Guard in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, said the VA must provide services to young combat veterans.
"My underlying message to you, the bottom line up front, is that the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs need to work together to think outside the box, and find comprehensive strategies to reach, educate and serve Guard and Reserve units," Gabbard Tamayo said.
She said she believes the VA has improved its efforts to inform returning combat veterans about the wide array of programs and services available to them.
She also recommended mandatory counseling, both one-on-one or in groups, for returning veterans, saying some soldiers are too proud to seek assistance on their own.