The experience of a U.S. veteran can vary, as our stories in this issue shows. It seems the further away from Washington, D.C. or Honolulu veterans are, the more difficult things become for healthcare.

Working through Honolulu adds another layer of bureaucracy.

Veteran affairs are an instance where the islands and certainly Guam, should push for the ability to govern their own fate through a Regional Benefits Center, and in so doing improve access to healthcare and remove some very real barriers for veterans who cannot afford air fares — or have difficulty with navigating the complicated processes of approval.

According to the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, “more than 40% of veterans of post 9/11 wars are entitled to lifetime disability payments. This number is expected to increase to 54% over the next 30 years.” Island veterans are certainly among that number and deserve a slim slice of the billions spent on veteran healthcare.

Aside from healthcare, the administration and care of cemeteries is also an issue.

We hope that Tim Aguon, director of the Guam Office of Veteran affairs for the Government of Guam will bring us good news from his conference attendance in D.C., and if so, we will bring it to you.

We anticipate further coverage on the issue of veteran affairs.

It is impossible to have a discussion on veteran healthcare without two things: a discussion on hospitals in our region, which clearly begins with important economic issues of funding, planning and construction — and the number of veterans in any of our islands — which can determine federal funding.

At Naval Hospital Guam there is a Community Based Outpatient Clinic. You can hear from the veterans themselves on their medical relationships and hopes for healthcare in the future. A second facility for veterans — possibly at a new civilian hospital — would help share the load, in the same way hospitals in Guam work together now.

In the meantime, a new hospital for Guam is still in planning and any facilities there for veterans from Guam and the other islands will wait too. mbj