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United States Senate



Veterans' Affairs

At the start of the 110th Congress, Senator Daniel K. Akaka was tapped to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

A strong and vocal advocate for veterans, Senator Akaka has served on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs each year of his tenure since his arrival to the Senate in 1990. Known for working in the spirit of aloha, Senator Akaka enjoys a productive working relationship with the veteran service organizations, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and his Congressional colleagues.

Senator Akaka is currently fighting to increase funding for the VA health care system. Veterans are seeking care at VA hospitals and clinics as never before, and Senator Akaka is working to ensure funding keeps pace with demand. In addition, as Chairman, Senator Akaka will continue his efforts to ensure that VA provides adequate care for Hawaii's veterans.

In addition to health care issues, Senator Akaka is committed to battling the large backlog of claims at VA, so that America's newest generation of veterans receive the benefits that they have earned in a timely manner.

Senator Akaka served as Ranking Democrat of the Committee during the 109th Congress. In this role, he led the Democrats in the Senate with regard to policy and services for our nation's 25 million veterans.

During the 109th Congress, much of the legislation put forward by Senator Akaka was enacted into law, including provisions to:

  • Make permanent a pilot program to make direct housing loans to Native American veterans for homes on tribal lands;
  • Expand eligibility to include Indian tribal organizations for grants for establishment of veterans cemeteries on trust lands;

Improve and expand VA's ability to provide mental health services at both hospitals and Community-Based Outpatient Clinics;

Require VA to pay full costs for certain service-connected veterans residing in State homes, provide medications for certain service-connected conditions to veterans residing in State homes, and create a limited authority for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to designate certain beds in non-State facilities as State homes for purposes of per diem payments;

Establish a program to improve assistance provided to caregivers of disabled veterans;

Ensure the continued existence of Parkinson's Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers, as well as Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence within the VA health care system; and

Expand the mission of Vet Centers to include outreach to veterans and bereavement counseling to family members, and increased the amount of money that VA is authorized to spend on Vet Center programs.

During the week of January 9-13, 2006, Senator Akaka held Committee hearings on four different Hawaiian islands to examine "The State of VA Care in Hawaii." These hearings brought high-ranking VA and military officials from Washington to examine care for Hawaii's veterans and returning servicemembers. Senator Akaka articulated that VA must provide a unique strategy to care for Hawaii's veterans due to the state's geography. As it is not practical or financially feasible for veterans to travel between the islands for care, proper care and services are needed on each island. As a result of Senator Akaka's efforts, VA provided $1 million for improvements in mental health initiatives in Hawaii, established a home health care program on Kauai, lifted the home care restrictions on Maui, created telehealth capabilities on Molokai, and increased mental health services in Kona.

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