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Veterans Can Express Concerns to Minority Committee

Feb. 23, 2005 –– Veterans and their families are invited to attend town hall meetings on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
The St. Croix meeting will be at 7 p.m. Sunday at American Legion Post 85 on Old Hospital Street in Gallows Bay. The St. Thomas meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday at American Legion Post 90 in Subbase.
"It's an opportunity for veterans to talk to the people from the Minority Committee about their concerns," Justin Harrigan, the director of the V.I. Veterans Affairs Office, said Wednesday.
The Minority Committee is an arm of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen said the committee makes direct recommendations to Veterans Affairs secretary and to Congress.
"It will be a great opportunity for Virgin Islands veterans to articulate the issues that are of utmost importance to them at this time," she said.
Its dozen members will tour facilities likely to be used by veterans on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Stops include the Herbert Grigg Nursing Home and Home for the Aged on St. Croix and the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and Queen Louise Home for the Aged on St. Thomas.
The Minority Committee, formed in 1994, reports annually to the Veterans Affairs secretary on how well the agency's programs and services meet the needs of minority veterans.
Harrigan said that as a result of these town hall meetings and tours, the Minority Committee may make recommendations for establishing programs, policies or requirements to meet specific needs.
He said the Minority Committee members represent the various branches of the military. One of its members is St. Croix resident Lawrence A. Bastian, who serves as district commander for American Legion District Number 10.
With someone who is acutely aware of Virgin Islands needs sitting on the panel, I believe that veterans across the territory will find participation in these hearings to be fruitful," Christensen said.
Harrigan said there are several issues facing Virgin Island veterans.
"The St. Thomas clinic has clearly outlived its usefulness," he said.
The Veterans Affairs Office runs the clinic at Buccaneer Mall on St. Thomas and one at Barren Spot Mall on St. Croix.
Harrigan said the St. Croix clinic was refurbished and in better shape than the one on St. Thomas.
He said that veterans also face a long wait to see doctors. Additionally, they have to pay their own transportation costs when they have to go to the veterans' hospital in Puerto Rico for treatment for non-service related ailments.
Harrigan said there are close to 5,200 veterans across the territory.
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