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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 25, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesMEMORIAL DAY UNDERSCORES VETERANS’ ISSUES

MEMORIAL DAY UNDERSCORES VETERANS’ ISSUES

As St. Croix’s veterans were saluted for their service and sacrifice on Memorial Day, an issue left mostly unaddressed was about the service old soldiers are now receiving from their government.
Many of the 5,000 aging veterans on St. Croix are grappling with a variety of ailments, said Gregory Francis, director of the V.I. Veterans Affairs Office, so the single most important issue is health care. Currently, however, veterans must submit to a "means test" to determine the co-payment amount that will be paid for by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
But the test takes into account income of a veteran’s entire family, which means a vet often has to foot a larger portion of the cost of care. And, Francis said, transportation costs are also subject to the test, meaning most vets in the territory have to pay their own way to receive medical treatment at nearest full-service VA hospital, on Puerto Rico.
"If your income exceeds the amount, you have to pay transportation costs," said Francis, a Vietnam war veteran. "Some of the veterans are reluctant to take the test because they look at it as refusing them service."
Francis said he has discussed with Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen and other representatives the idea of having the means test look only at a veteran’s income rather than that of his or her entire family. He said he isn’t sure when Congress will address the issue.
Another sensitive issue that has seen progress of late is the development a veterans cemetery on St. Croix. A four-acre area for veterans and their dependents in the Kingshill Cemetery is being requested and should be opened soon, Francis said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull recently approved a bill that would allocate $350,000 to cover development costs for land donated to veterans on St. Croix by the De Chabert family some 25 years ago. The approximately 30 acres in Estate St. George will be subdivided using government funding and then sold to veterans at nominal cost, Francis said.
Despite the issues facing veterans today, the Memorial Day commemoration was to honor fallen soldiers. Lawrence Bastian, commander of the local district of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said that many Virgin Islanders who served in the country’s armed forces volunteered – and paid the ultimate price.
"As a result, many of the people here in our community lost their lives," he said. "We don’t take this day lightly."

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As St. Croix’s veterans were saluted for their service and sacrifice on Memorial Day, an issue left mostly unaddressed was about the service old soldiers are now receiving from their government.
Many of the 5,000 aging veterans on St. Croix are grappling with a variety of ailments, said Gregory Francis, director of the V.I. Veterans Affairs Office, so the single most important issue is health care. Currently, however, veterans must submit to a "means test" to determine the co-payment amount that will be paid for by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
But the test takes into account income of a veteran’s entire family, which means a vet often has to foot a larger portion of the cost of care. And, Francis said, transportation costs are also subject to the test, meaning most vets in the territory have to pay their own way to receive medical treatment at nearest full-service VA hospital, on Puerto Rico.
"If your income exceeds the amount, you have to pay transportation costs," said Francis, a Vietnam war veteran. "Some of the veterans are reluctant to take the test because they look at it as refusing them service."
Francis said he has discussed with Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen and other representatives the idea of having the means test look only at a veteran’s income rather than that of his or her entire family. He said he isn’t sure when Congress will address the issue.
Another sensitive issue that has seen progress of late is the development a veterans cemetery on St. Croix. A four-acre area for veterans and their dependents in the Kingshill Cemetery is being requested and should be opened soon, Francis said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull recently approved a bill that would allocate $350,000 to cover development costs for land donated to veterans on St. Croix by the De Chabert family some 25 years ago. The approximately 30 acres in Estate St. George will be subdivided using government funding and then sold to veterans at nominal cost, Francis said.
Despite the issues facing veterans today, the Memorial Day commemoration was to honor fallen soldiers. Lawrence Bastian, commander of the local district of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said that many Virgin Islanders who served in the country’s armed forces volunteered – and paid the ultimate price.
"As a result, many of the people here in our community lost their lives," he said. "We don’t take this day lightly."