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Gabbard invites new veterans secretary to visit Hawaii facilities

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / 2000
    Veterans Affairs Department dedicate its new $21 million Spark Matsunaga Medical Center.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has invited the new head of the Department of Veterans Affairs to Hawaii to see the "unique health care challenges" that at one point forced Hawaii veterans to endure the longest wait times in the entire VA system.

Gabbard, a combat veteran and captain in the Hawaii Army National guard, spoke with VA Secretary Bob McDonald by phone after he was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in July to replace Kauai-born Army war hero Eric Shinseki, who resigned in May following disturbing disclosures at the VA.

McDonald is the former CEO of Procter & Gamble.

Gabbard followed up her phone call with McDonald with a letter that outlined the issues facing Hawaii veterans. She ended the letter by saying, "I look forward to hosting you in Hawaii so you can hear directly from our amazing veteran community, as we continue working on our shared mission of serving and honoring our veterans."

McDonald was unavailable for comment on Sunday.

"When Secretary McDonald and I spoke, I wanted to ensure he understood the unique challenges our Hawaii veterans face every single day just to access care," Gabbard said in a statement Sunday. "Whether it is the geographic challenges to drive or fly to a VA health provider, or the longest-in-the-nation wait times for first-time primary care appointments, Hawaii veterans continue to face challenges accessing the care they’re entitled to from the VA. … I wrote him today to reiterate those questions and concerns, and to personally invite him to visit our Islands to see first-hand the unique health care challenges still facing Hawaii’s veterans."

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