JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Verdie Bowen, director of the Alaska State Office of Veterans Affairs, was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee on the Readjustment of Veterans for a two-year term that began January 1.
Bowen was appointed by Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to serve on what will be his third committee while in his current position. Wilkie additionally requested that Bowen serve as the new chair of the committee.
“The best part of this board will be my ability to work directly with all of our Veterans Centers,” said Bowen, “and my dream is one day to have one center beside every VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic.”
VA Veteran Centers are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services.
On the committee, Bowen will work specifically on the improvement of veterans’ mental healthcare, involving issues such as suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol abuse, employment, family adjustment and more.
“By adjusting healthcare across the nation, I’d like to improve mental healthcare in Alaska to help our veterans and active military with these issues,” said Bowen.
The Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs is dedicated to providing help to every veteran in the state of Alaska, including those in rural Alaskan communities.
“That is my goal,” said Bowen, “to help every veteran in Alaska.”
In the time that he has served as director for the past ten years, the state went from about 54 percent of veterans having access to healthcare to 94 percent of veterans with access.
The Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs has emphasized the importance of helping veterans in rural communities within Alaska.
“We have to bridge the gap by reaching our veterans in rural communities,” said Bowen. “Veterans are people who have served for a specific amount of time, and they have earned benefits for that period of service.”
Some of the notable programs that Bowen’s office has started in order to improve rural representation include the Native Healthcare Sharing Agreement, which allows veterans in rural communities to use local native clinics at the expense of the VA; and the Highly Rural Transportation Grant, which allows eligible veterans to use transportation to healthcare facilities at the expense of the VA as well.
The Native Healthcare Sharing Agreement multiplied the number of clinics available through the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs from 5 clinics in 2011 to 127 clinics a year later.
Additionally, the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs provided guidance, recommendations and technical assistance for seven different federal laws to accommodate the needs of local veterans.
“The most effective way we can get change here is to go to D.C. and do things on the national level,” said Bowen.