Happy New Year! This column was started in February 2005 as an information outlet for the Kauai Veterans Council (KVC), headed by Frank Cruz. Veteran-related issues were available, and council members needed a means to reach the 5,000-plus veterans on this island. The Kaua‘i Veterans Corner was established in The Garden Island newspaper to be published on the last Sunday of each month. Information came from the 14 Kaua‘i veteran organizations and veteran related government agencies.
Members of the KVC and the veterans of Kaua‘i welcome home the newest of our war veterans, the soldiers of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 299th Infantry, 29th Infantry Brigade. After being gone for about 18 months and a tour in Iraq, the Hawaii Army National Guard members are back in Hawai‘i, and will soon return to the Garden Island.
The KVC members created the Operation Morale program primarily in support of the National Guard soldiers. The program also recognized other military members independently deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. There is consideration to continue the program to support these military members until the conclusion of the conflict. We need a feel from members of families with a family member deployed. Family members or those who know of an individual deployed are asked to contact Johnny at 346-5516, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai‘i, the ranking member, brought the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to Hawai‘i for four days of hearings, which started on Kaua‘i on Jan. 9. The hearings were chaired by U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Testimony was provided by officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and healthcare specialists. On Kaua‘i, testimony was also given by Lynn Aylward-Bingman, Ed Kawamura, and KVC President Frank Cruz. The focus was on VA health care in Hawai‘i. An excellent article was featured in the Jan. 10 issue of The Garden Island.
News from CBOC
CBOC is the acronym for the Community Based Outpatient Clinic, previously known as the Primary Care Clinic. It is located on the second floor of the Veterans Center on Kuhio Highway. Since the Senate hearing, VA leaders have approved a position for a registered nurse for home care. VA patients are reminded of the increase to $8 for co-payments for prescriptions. Veterans need to update clinic officials of any changes to their addresses, phone numbers or medical insurance.
Veterans identification card
Veterans need to be actively enrolled with the clinic for medical services in order to obtain a VA identification card. The VA will not process the application for an ID card unless a VA doctor had been seen within the past two years. Veterans can walk in to apply, or call 246-0497, to have an application mailed to them. A copy of the DD Form 214 is required. Pictures can be taken at the CBOC between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
Tricare medical benefits are available to all active-duty, retired military personnel and their family members. There are several Tricare programs. On their 65th birthday, military retirees and their spouses automatically convert to the Tricare for Life program. This includes being eligible for prescription coverage under the senior-pharmacy program.
The installing of 96 additional columbariums at the Kauai Veterans Center is still planned. The columbariums have been ordered, though their arrival date has not been established. County of Kaua‘i workers will soon pour the concrete for the bases.
Medicare Part D
Prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D) became available on Jan. 1 to everyone with Medicare Part A or B coverage. Veterans or their spouses have until May 15 to decide whether to enroll or not. The program is voluntary, and the decision to enroll will not impact on VA prescription-drug coverage. Spouses may independently enroll if the veteran elects not to participate. The VA prescription coverage is considered by Medicare officials to be at least as good as the Part D coverage. The Tricare for Life coverage has been determined to be far superior.
Some veterans and their spouses have drug coverage through their previous civilian employment. Veterans should evaluate their present coverage to determine whether participation in Medicare Part D is necessary.
Veterans in need of transportation for VA medical appointments may call CBOC at 246-0497. Arrangements are on a first-come, first-served basis, and should be made as soon as possible. Preferably, 48 hours notice is desired. Individuals denied transportation may call Ed Kawamura at 652-6706 three days prior to their appointment for space availability.
If transportation was scheduled early in advance, veterans must call Ed two days prior to re-affirm the schedule. The van cannot accommodate wheelchair-bound patients.
Kaua‘i honor guard
Upon the death of a veteran, family members may request the presence of an honor guard during a funeral. Most veterans are not entitled to have an honor guard provided by the military. Unlike the other islands, Kaua‘i has a group of veteran volunteers who will provide an honor guard for a funeral. They will provide a firing squad. If an honor guard is desired, family members must make those wishes known when making funeral arrangements, either to personnel at the mortuary or to Tony Elliott, the counselor at the state Office of Veterans Affairs at the Kauai Veterans Center on Kapule Highway in Lihu‘e.
Hands-free cell phones
A new federal law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving on a U.S. Department of Defense installation unless the phones are hands-free. The law comes in response to statistics citing an increased number of drivers’ use of cell phones as contributing factors in traffic accidents.
Number of veterans on Kaua‘i
Officials in the Office of the Actuary, Department of Veteran Affairs, estimated in September 2004 that there were 107,310 veterans in Hawai‘i. On Kaua‘i, the estimated total is 5,334. The estimated figures for the other counties are 77,341 on O‘ahu, 10,312 on Maui, and 14,323 on the Big Island. With a population of approximately 60,000, there is one veteran per 11.25 individuals on Kaua‘i. Everyone probably has a veteran friend who is more than likely a relative.
Johnny Rabasa, a Hanama‘ulu resident and Kaua‘i High School graduate, served for 30 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a command sergeant major. He served in Vietnam. He also retired from the U.S. Postal Service, was postmaster at the Kaumakani post office, and worked at the Lihu‘e post office. He writes this monthly column exclusively for The Garden Island.