Alaska VA Office Moves Off JBER

For veterans without military ID cards, several pieces of documentation were required to visit the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs located on the Joint Elmendorf-Richardson military base in Anchorage, including a driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. That’s no more, now that the office has moved off the base.

The walls are bare, and some of the chairs were borrowed, but, on Tuesday, the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs celebrated its move into new offices in East Anchorage. Joe Fields is chair of the Veterans’ Advisory Council to the Governor and Office of Veterans Affairs, which he says  provides services directly or indirectly to a large percentage of Alaskans.

“Veterans are both male and female. Veterans are from WWII to current conflicts. They have a variety of different needs. Some have extreme medical needs. Some have retirement needs. Some have educational needs. It’s always a body in transition. We have 77,000 in the state and you connect that to their families, that’s 230,000 or half the population, about a third of the population is related to a veteran,” Fields said.

Department head Verdie Bowen says the Alaska office of Veterans Affairs provides a range of services to veterans statewide.

“We provide help on education programs. We provide help on disability claims and also filing compensation and pension. We also help them attain their medical benefits that they’ve earned through the military, through the VA. On the state side we have home loans.  We have tax breaks on their homes, hunting and fishing license, land purchases, education programs,” Bowen said.

Council member John Guinn, of Bethel, says veterans needs vary depending on where they live.

“We’re from areas all over the state of Alaska. Like I said, I’m from Bethel. I have different needs for my veterans, transportation, money, travel, health, than Anchorage does. So we put all these things together,” Guinn said.

Council member Suellen Wright-Novak says the council had worked for a dozen years to get the office moved from the Joint Elmendorf Richardson military base.

“This is the answer that the Veterans Affairs has been looking for a long time. Because we don’t have the problem of veterans who don’t have access to the base, and can’t get on the base anymore with the security issues that we now have,” Wright-Novak said.

The state office of Veteran Affairs has offices in Juneau, Fairbanks, Kenai, and Wasilla as well as Anchorage.

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Joaqlin Estus is a reporter at KNBA in Anchorage.