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Lawmakers Call for the Veterans Administration to Send the Board of Appeals Panel to Alaska

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2016

JUNEAU — Today, members of the Alaska Senate Democrats and the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition sent a letter to Laura Eskenazi, the Vice Chairman and Executive in Charge of the Board of Veterans Appeals, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, requesting immediate in-person proceedings in Alaska by the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Anyone injured, or who develops a medical condition, while serving in the U.S. military deserves to receive compensation based on the degree to which the injury affects the individual. This includes aspects such as mobility, future earning capacity, or quality of life. When a veteran’s application for benefits is denied by a Regional Office, they may appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

The Board has a panel whose specific purpose is to travel across the country to hear in person from applicants who have filed an appeal, avoiding travel which may be costly or physically prohibitive for disabled veterans. Proper due process dictates that Alaska’s veterans deserve the same treatment and opportunity as other veterans across the country, and yet the Board has not visited Alaska since 2012. Currently, Alaska veterans must meet with the Board only through video conference.

“This is fundamentally wrong,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) who represents a portion of the Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER). “These men and women have answered their country’s call and served with dignity. The least we can do is provide them the opportunity to be heard, and to have their concerns acknowledged and acted upon by people who are there in the room, just like other veterans in the Lower 48.”

Senator Wielechowski has been contacted by several veterans groups in the state who voiced their concern and disappointment that the Board was seemingly inaccessible to Alaska’s veterans.

Alaska has one of the highest concentrations of veterans per capita in the nation, with one in ten residents having served in the military. Many have been increasingly frustrated by the bureaucracy they encounter as they transition out of active duty service.

“It is unfortunate we have to step in to fix this situation,” said Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), Leader of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition.  “It’s been four years already since Alaska’s vets have had the opportunity to speak directly to the Board. This should be a regular occurrence, and we’ve asked that our veterans be afforded the opportunity to attend in-person hearings to be held at least once a year.  This is not too much to ask.”

A copy of the letter to the Board of Veterans Appeals is available here.

For more information, please contact Alaska Senate Democrats Press Secretary Jeanne Devon at (907) 269-0173.

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