Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/22/1996 05:29 PM MLV

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HJR 61 - ANCHORAGE VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE                                
 Number 0067                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT announced that the first order of business to come           
 before the committee was HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 61, Opposing              
 the proposed changes in the functions of the federal Office of                
 Veterans Affairs in Anchorage.                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS introduced HJR 61, which he stated was               
 brought to his attention by a group of Anchorage veterans.  The               
 resolution supports continuation of the Anchorage Veterans Affairs            
 (VA) Regional Office.  Alaska's demographics are such that the                
 state's already large veteran population will continue to increase,           
 putting even greater demands on the existing office in Anchorage.             
 The resolution also points to the efficiency rating of the                    
 Anchorage VA office, which is the sixth highest of the 57 regional            
 VA offices in the nation.  HJR 61 also states that moving the                 
 pension and claims functions of the Anchorage office to Reno,                 
 Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona would impact the processing of claims             
 and applications, and prevent personal access by veterans.                    
 Finally, HJR 61 puts the Alaska legislature on record as opposing             
 the federal proposal of downsizing the Anchorage VA office and                
 shifting the functions to other states.  Representative Willis                
 introduced Tim Armstrong and Gene Daw, of the Veterans of Foreign             
 Wars (VFW).                                                                   
 Number 0306                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD FOSTER commended Representative Willis for             
 introducing HJR 61.  He stated that at least a dozen veterans had             
 visited his office to discuss the issue, and that he had spoken               
 with Colonel John Ritz of Senator Stevens' staff in Washington,               
 D.C., about the matter.  He noted that passage of HJR 61 would make           
 a strong statement.  Representative Foster made a motion that HJR
 61, with attached fiscal note and individual recommendations, pass            
 out of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans'                  
 Number 0395                                                                   
 TIM ARMSTRONG, Commander, Taku Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars           
 (VFW) and Service Officer, Auke Bay American Legion Post, stated              
 that Gene Daw, Past Commander of the Taku VFW post, wished to                 
 address an issue of concern to veterans.                                      
 Number 0460                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if the proposed testimony was related to HJR
 GENE DAW, Past Commander, Taku Post of the VFW, stated that the VFW           
 is in 100 percent support of HJR 61, but that he also wished to               
 testify on another matter.  He explained that he has been working             
 with Senator Stevens' office.  Senator Stevens has requested that             
 the VA send an under secretary to Anchorage, to discuss the                   
 proposed relocation.  In addition, the under secretary will also              
 discuss the issue of out-patient treatment for veterans.  The VA              
 plans to put veterans under a Medicare fee schedule.  In some areas           
 of Alaska, this will result in veterans having to pay a portion of            
 their own medical bills.  In the past, for those having a greater             
 than 50 percent disability, the VA has paid 100 percent of the                
 bill.  Mr. Daw emphasized that Anchorage and Fairbanks would not be           
 affected by this change, because VA centers are located there,                
 where the veterans can receive out-patient treatment at no cost.              
 For veterans in Southeast Alaska or other outlying areas, however,            
 they must receive out-patient treatment in their own communities.             
 Number 0662                                                                   
 MR. DAW further testified that when U.S. troops are sent to battle,           
 they are called the best troops in the world.  He asked why                   
 disabled veterans should not receive the best medical treatment.              
 He reiterated that the VFW supports HJR 61, but that they would               
 also like to see a resolution related to health care for veterans             
 in the state.  He stated the resolution needs to be passed before             
 the under secretary's visit to Anchorage, in order to help convince           
 the VA that it is making a mistake.  He further noted that Senator            
 Stevens is behind the veterans 100 percent, and that passing a                
 resolution would give him more ammunition.                                    
 Number 0769                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT stated that someone from his staff could assist              
 Mr. Daw in crafting language for a new resolution.  He noted that             
 the deadline would be tight, due to the five day notice requirement           
 for hearings.                                                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER suggested that, since time remaining in the             
 session is so short, a letter signed by all of the committee                  
 members might be helpful.                                                     
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT noted that a letter would not carry the same                 
 weight as a resolution.  He also noted that, because of the dual              
 subject rule, language regarding the health care issue could not be           
 incorporated into HJR 61.                                                     
 Number 0834                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS concurred that the two issues should be kept            
 CO-CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there was any objection to moving HJR 61            
 out of the committee.  Hearing no objection, HJR 61 was moved out             
 of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs,             
 with unanimous consent and attached zero fiscal note.                         

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