(BIVN) – Veterans-related issues in Hawaiʻi County are about to get more attention.
On November 20, the Hawaiʻi County Council voted to advance Bill 213, expanding the scope of the powers and duties of the Veterans Advisory Committee.
Veterans advocates testified in full support.
Michael Doolittle (Veterans Advisory Committee Chair): “In years past this committee has been restricted to only making comments related to veterans cemeteries. While we don’t want to abrogate our responsibility towards the cemeteries, the issues regarding – you know – the passed veterans are not issues that I believe should supersede the the issues that affect the veterans that are living today, with the many troubles that they face – homelessness, unemployment, health care issues, limited resources and always seeming to live in the shadows of ‘we support the troops and thank you for your service’, which are more cliches today than they are actual actionable – you know – directives of our our society.”
Debra Lewis (Veterans Advisory Committee): “Early on I learned that our Charter for the Veterans Advisory Committee for the mayor – it was only restricted to cemeteries. And that struck me as odd until I researched and thought well, it was actually created when cemeteries were a big thing when we were creating them on the west side and the east side. Those have been a remarkable achievement for this county and and we will continue to honor that. What vice chair Karen Eoff has proposed is that we just add a few more words to that to allow us to discuss and make recommendations on issues affecting veterans residing in Hawaiʻi County. Now, you heard about the Pāhoa issues with the lava flow. As a commander of the VFW out in Pāhoa, we issued over $40,000 to veterans affected. We had over a hundred veterans affected by that lava flow and were displaced. We have a lot of issues that … mainly on needs, which is homelessness and unemployment, and then just making sure they get their medical benefits and their other benefits that they earned as being a veteran for our nation. Those are some things, and then we have day-to-day things, but as I’ve learned we need to work together. We need to work with our businesses. We need to work with our nonprofits. We need to work with our veteran groups. And we need to work with our elected officials, if we really want to have sustainable solutions that only help our veterans but help our entire community and their families. We cannot afford to have 20 suicides a day which is – the June report came out – we’re still suffering 20 suicides today. We know that devastates families and our veterans and our communities. It’s happening nationally, all ages, but it’s really affecting our veterans. I think we can do more and I know that you’ll help us. Thank you so very much for this time.”