Top Veterans Affairs Official Visiting Alaska

The top U.S. official who oversees veterans’ issues will be in Alaska on Memorial Day. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will be with Senator Mark Begich in Anchorage on Monday at Memorial Day events. They’ll also travel out to rural Alaska that afternoon, which Begich says will give Shinseki insight into what Alaskan veterans face when trying to get services.

Begich says it’s important that Shinseki really see what it means when you can’t hop in a car and drive across the state for treatment.  To that end, they’ll go together to Bethel and the village of Kwigillingok.

The two will also hold a listening session on Tuesday afternoon at the Loussac Library in Anchorage, along with Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The delegation plans to honor Memorial Day: Murkowski will do so in Fairbanks at a wreath-laying ceremony, and Congressman Young will attend a national celebration on the U.S. Mall.  He’s not traveling to Alaska because unlike the Senate, the House is not on recess next week.

This week Senator Begich helped garner attention for a new report about how reliant veterans are on Social Security payments.  It was paid for by pro-vets groups including the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America.  It finds that one-third of Social Security recipients are veterans, and that the program pays out benefits to more than 9 million vets nation-wide and 77,000 in Alaska.

Begich says those numbers may surprise people who think of the program as only helping older Americans.

Begich says that should be factored into debates right now over whether to alter Social Security to save money.

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