The Guam Veterans Affairs Office is seeking a fiscal 2022 budget of $768,605.

That's more than $200,000 in excess of the agency's appropriation two years ago, which reached nearly $500,000. 

Veterans Affairs Director P. Tim Aguon candidly told lawmakers Wednesday that the fiscal 2022 request "will not fulfill the gaps to allow Veterans Affairs to deliver on the commitment to veterans through investments in personnel, efficient business practices and technology."

Aguon said his ideal budget is $2.4 million, but the agency "will continue to work with federal, state and local partners, including veterans service organizations to best utilize the funds requested" to meet its mission.

There are more than 28,000 veterans with active files on Guam, according to Aguon. And that $2.4 million will rightsize the agency to provide services that all veterans require, he said.

The office also has several administrative vacancies, including a veterans service officer, records management officer and others.

"These are positions that have not been filled and we desperately need those positions in order to move the agency forward, so that we can obtain the excellence in customer service to provide to the veterans," Aguon said.

"We only can do as much as we can with what we have. At some point, we're going to reach the limit of our capacity with what we have. And hopefully, that's not tomorrow, but I can't say enough how we desperately need the positions that are on the books but also the positions that we actually need to make the agency whole. These are just positions that, by attrition, we have not been able to fill," the director said.

Lawmakers had carved out $5 million for Guam Veterans Affairs - to assist with equipment, supplies and capital improvement - within the American Rescue Plan spending priority list they had earlier submitted to the governor. That request also is reflected in a recent resolution. 

Appropriations Chairman Sen. Joe San Agustin said the Legislature is hoping ARP funding will be used for nonrecurring costs and will not be used to address personnel funding. The Legislature will handle that, San Agustin said.

Aguon said he wasn't aware of the Legislature's request.

Guam Veterans Affairs does not have capital outlay projects in fiscal 2021 but capital improvement projects are part of a grant the agency is applying for on July 1, which is to improve, renovate and expand within the Veterans Cemetery in Piti and the U.S. Naval Cemetery in Hagåtña. 

"Outside of the administration building at Asan and whatever's not covered in the grant, in the future we'll determine what type of and the amounts of money that we'll need for those other projects," Aguon said. 

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