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Understaffing, lack of training and eight months without an on-site manager added to a poor performance by the Anchorage Veterans Administration Regional Office - a performance that left some vets without benefits they should have received or waiting far too long to receive them. Anchorage office supervisors did not dispute the findings of federal inspectors that the VA office failed to meet requirements in 13 of 14 areas covered in an inspection last year.
They ranged from security of vets' information to lack of tracking and follow-through to erroneous denial of benefits.
This is no way to treat our veterans. Since 2001, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have slammed the VA across the country. Clearly, the department was in no way prepared to deal with the needs of tens of thousands of troops mustering out of their country's service with a wide range of disabilities and injuries - both physical and psychological. Clearly, the nation wasn't prepared to keep the promises made to its veterans.
But the 2009 audit found the Anchorage office deficiencies exceeded the national shortcomings. In the state with the highest per capita population of veterans in the nation, that's just not right.
Both of Alaska's US senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, are keeping close track of this issue. Both have championed veterans' causes for years. Murkowski wants a thorough review of Anchorage office staffing. Begich has scheduled a field hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for Feb. 16 in Anchorage.
Good on both counts. Let's do what it takes to take care of our Alaska veterans. They should be able to count on the home front..