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State Denying Some Disabled Veterans Their Legal Prescription Medicine Benefits

Legislators, Advocates Propose Fix

Oct. 16, 2009

ANCHORAGE – Today three legislators, along with veterans advocates, presented a solution to a frustrating problem for military veterans living at Alaska’s Pioneer Homes. Currently Alaska’s Pioneer Homes do not allow some disabled veterans to receive the free prescription medicine benefits they are entitled to under federal law. Under federal law, disabled veterans are entitled to free prescription medicine if they have received a 51 percent or higher disability rating.

Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom (R-Eagle River) and Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) joined to send a letter (attached) to the director of the Pioneer Homes to propose a solution to the prescription medicine problem. Wielechowski and Dahlstrom are co-chairs of the Joint Armed Services Committee.

“Veterans have earned this benefit and deserve it,” said Beatrice Combs, who brought the problem to light. “Moving into a private home is expensive and why should we charge them more for prescription drugs?  Even a few hundred dollars a month is a lot.”

“To force veterans who get free medications from the VA to have to purchase them because of conflicting rules is so typical of the issues many veterans face," said Ric Davidge, Vietnam Veterans of Alaska's state council president. "Representative Gara, Representative Dahlstrom and Senator Wielechowksi have worked very hard to solve this bureaucratic conflict. We hope the State can find a solution within these suggestions,” Davidge has also been seeking a solution.

Gara, Wielechowski and Dahlstrom believe the Pioneer Homes will work with them to fix the problem, though success has eluded them so far this summer. Today’s letter offers a solution, and seeks Department help in fixing the problem. While the VA provides free prescription medicine to disabled veterans, a number of problems have prevented the Pioneer Home from administering the free prescription medicine to those patients who cannot administer their own medicine without staff help. Patients are then required to purchase the medicine they receive at the Pioneer Homes.

“It’s an important benefit veterans have earned by serving their country,” Gara said. “It’s a very fixable problem, and I think the State help us solve it.”

"We should not allow governmental bureaucracy to interfere with the health care our veterans deserve. I look forward to working with the Pioneer Homes to find a solution to this problem”, Wielechowski said.

“This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed,” Dahlstrom said. “The veterans in our Pioneer Home should be able to receive their free medications in our state run facilities. I am confident we can work with the Department of Health and Social Services to reach a solution on this matter.”

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