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Isakson set to visit Hinesville
Senator to hold town-hall meeting Friday
Isakson Official Photo Color
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., will hold a town-hall meeting at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Hinesville City Hall. - photo by Photo provided.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., will hold a town-hall meeting at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Hinesville City Hall. The legislator said he wants to hear from and talk to veterans and military community members about issues important to them.

“I plan to visit all the major installations here in Georgia and four of our VA medical facilities,” Isakson said. “I’ll talk about health care and disability claims, jobs, education and the military’s drawdown.”

Isakson, who served six years with the Georgia Air National Guard after graduating from the University of Georgia in 1966, serves on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He was a major player in the recently passed Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014. He said the act gives veterans a choice for alternative health care if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA treatment facility or if the waiting time for care is more than 30 days.

The new bill also makes it illegal for VA personnel to “cook the books” and hide the waiting time some veterans have endured. It also gives the secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs the authorization to fire poor-performing senior executives. In all, Isakson said the new bill makes the VA more accountable to Congress and to the veterans it’s supposed to serve.

The senator said the format for his town-hall meetings will be similar to the veterans’ forum hosted by Armstrong State University each year on behalf of Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. Kingston’s forums included representatives from the VA as well as veterans service organizations, such as the Disabled Veterans of America, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Isakson spokeswoman Amanda Maddox did not say whether VA or service representatives will attend the town-hall meetings. However, a VA casework specialist will be there to help veterans with any VA-related benefits or health-care issues. Isakson said he’s also concerned about the time it takes the VA to respond to benefits claims.

“As you may know, it takes the VA an average 478 days to make a determination on a VA claim,” he said. “That’s more than a year. Although there are signs of improvement, it’s still taking too long.”

Isakson said he expects to answer questions about other military-related issues, including the Pentagon’s efforts to reduce the size of the military due to budget restraints. He said Georgia’s 10 military bases have a major impact on the state’s economy. He opposes troop cuts at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort McPherson, Fort Gillem, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Robins Air Force Base, Moody Air Force Base, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

In fact, Isakson said he questions whether the military really needs to continue to cut spending or troop strength, given recent events in Eastern Europe and, especially, Iraq and Syria.

“Obviously, we have a major threat in the heart of Syria,” Isakson said. “It’s ISIS. We’re now being shot at with our own anti-aircraft guns and weapons we left for Iraqi forces. We should not continue this drawdown. It’s time for a pause, I think. It’s time for a time-out.”

Isakson said the military drawdown is hurting military communities economically, and it places the nation at risk to even greater terrorist threats. He said military and civilian leadership needs to accept the challenges the nation is facing abroad and make sure the United States has the manpower necessary to respond to the next crisis.

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