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CORRECTED: Sen. Begich Holds Veterans Committee Field Hearings in Alaska

Job availability, VA services, VA audit on agenda

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, will join Veterans Administration (VA) and Department of Labor officials for two field hearings in Alaska to address a number of issues facing Alaska's 75,000-plus military veterans.

Begich will chair the hearings in Anchorage on Feb. 16 and in Fairbanks on Feb. 17. The hearings are designed to hear about veterans' services in Alaska to support returning veterans, job opportunities, health benefits, challenges faced by returning veterans, and the December 2009 audit by the Office of Inspector General concerning the operation of the VA Regional office in Anchorage.

"Providing efficient, timely and comprehensive services to our veterans remains one of my top priorities," Begich said. "I look forward to hearing from VA and Labor officials and veterans themselves about progress made, and what changes still need to occur within the system."

Additionally, on Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. at the Meridian Point Office Center public meeting room (not in the VA Clinic as earlier stated), 865 North Seward Meridian Highway.

, Sen. Begich and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training Services Raymond Jefferson will host a roundtable discussion with veterans and employers on hiring and transition issues. And on Feb. 18 at 1 pm, Sen. Begich and Sec. Jefferson will host a veterans' roundtable discussion at the Borough Assembly Chambers in Kotzebue.

·         The Veterans Committee field hearing in Anchorage is set for Tuesday, Feb. 16 from 10:30 am - 12 noon in the Anchorage Assembly Chambers of the Loussac Library. Invited witnesses include Sec. Jefferson; Mark Bilosz, Director of the Anchorage Regional VA Office; Belinda Finn, Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs; Jan Myers, Alaska Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, Family Programs; Ric Davidge, Alaska Disabled Veterans Business Alliance; and Brig. Gen. Tom Katkus, Adjutant General Alaska National Guard.

·         The Veterans Committee field hearing in  Fairbanks is set for Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 1 - 2:30 pm in the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Chambers. The same witnesses will testify at the Fairbanks hearing with the addition of Dr. Susan Pendergrass, Director, Northwest Health Network Veterans Integrated Service Network 20; and Alex Spector, Director, Alaska VA Health Care System.

Individuals testifying at the hearings will be limited to those invited veterans and veterans' advocates already notified. Both the media and the general public are welcome to attend and listen to the proceedings.

Following the field hearing in Fairbanks (from 2:45 - 3:15 pm in the same location), Sen. Begich will join local leaders of the Employers in Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) for a ceremony where public and private employers of Guard members and Reservists will sign a "Statement of Support."

The ESGR's Statement of Support Program informs and educates employers about their rights and responsibilities toward employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. Signers pledge to honor the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act and recognize service members and their families.

ESGR is a Department of Defense organization promoting cooperation and understanding between Reserve component members and their civilian employers and assists in the resolution of conflicts coming from an employee's military service. ESGR operates through a network of volunteers throughout each state.

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