Iakopo: Veterans safe from austerity

Posted on Mar 04 2020

Despite the austerity measures that will be implemented across the Commonwealth government due to the coronavirus outbreak and the lack of tourists visiting the CNMI, the benefits of the CNMI’s veterans won’t be affected.

Stanley T. Iakopo, executive officer of the VAO, confirmed that, although the government and private sectors will be implementing austerity measures, that would not conflict with veterans’ benefits.

In fact, Veterans Affairs representatives will be visiting the CNMI once a month to take care of veterans’ needs, Iakopo said. In the past, VA representatives would only visit the CNMI four times a year and were limited to daytime appointments. This time, night time assistance will be available to the CNMI’s veterans.

New ID required

At the same time, Iakopo encourages eligible veterans who have a “Veteran Health Identification Card” that was issued before Jan. 1, 2020, to fly to Guam to get a new card that would give them access to the Troop Store at the U.S. Army Reserve.

Getting the new ID card would resolve cases where veterans in the CNMI were being turned away from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, despite having VHIC cards that state that they are “serviced connected,” which is one of the requirements that is needed on the ID card, to enter the store.

According to Iakopo, even if the card isn’t expired, if it is an old one and needs to be updated would result in them being turned away at the troop store.

Last Jan. 1, the CNMI OVA announced that the U.S. Department of Defense will be now offering a new Veterans Health Identification Card for eligible veterans that will allow access to the Military Commissary, Exchange, and Recreation facilities. The VHIC must display the veteran’s eligibility statues which are Purple Heart, Former Prisoner of War, and/or Service Connected.

Iakopo noted that he has been working with the directors from Guam who deals with this certain issue to write a memorandum to say that these veterans are allowed to enter the Saipan troop store with their old ID card. Iakopo is hoping that AAFES Guam will give eligible veterans six months more to be able to access the store and get a new VHIC.

It has been a while since Saipan has had its own system to be able to give eligible veterans the ability to get their own card on island; however, Iakopo stated that they aren’t ready for that because they don’t have the proper setting or equipment on the island yet. He added that VA directors are currently working together to get that here, but there is no timeframe for when it will be available.

MD: Veterans safe from austerity.

KW: Veteran Affairs Office, veterans benefits.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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