In what is being billed as a first for the CNMI, the Office of Veterans Affairs now has an accredited, full-time Veterans Benefits counselor.
Willie Peterson III, who is a legal administrative specialist for the Veterans Benefits Administration under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will be helping the CNMI’s veterans by submitting benefits claims directly to the Veterans Benefits Management System. Peterson said in an interview Thursday that he will be the CNMI’s VB counselor for the foreseeable future, and explained what will be the nature of his work for the OVA.
As an accredited counselor, Peterson has direct access to the Veterans Benefits Management System, which is the DVA’s federal database that it uses to accept, monitor, and decide on benefits claims filed by veterans throughout the nation. With access to the VBMS, Peterson can help the CNMI’s veterans by submitting their benefits claims directly to the database and providing updates on the current status of their claims.
Peterson clarified that he does not decide on claims himself, but that benefits claims are submitted to a VA regional office for further review. For the CNMI, claims are forwarded to the Honolulu Regional Office of Veterans Affairs in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Peterson said he is grateful for the opportunity to join the OVA, and that there will be no need to “reinvent the wheel” as far as helping veterans is concerned. “I’m very excited for the opportunity to be the first VBA personnel in the CNMI, and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this effort with the assistance of state leaders. I look forward to making sure that those that are eligible for benefits here file for those claims, and get resolutions to those claims in a timely manner. That’s the most important mission for me right now,” said Peterson.
“The VBA has targeted metrics that we use to make sure that we’re servicing veteran communities, so we’re not going to reinvent the wheel. All we’re going to do is implement here what [the VBA] has been doing across the country,” he added.
Peterson has been working for the VBA for 10 years, with the last two years spent helping veterans in Hawaii. At that time, Peterson worked one year at the Honolulu Regional Office of Veterans Affairs and another year in Maui, where he helped veterans in the Maui County area.
On Mondays (excluding federal holidays), the Saipan VA Clinic in the Marina Heights II building in suites 100 and 206 accepts appointments from 8am to 4pm. The clinic can be called at 322-0035.
From Tuesday through Friday (excluding federal holidays), the OVA located at 1264 Anatahan Drive on Capital Hill accepts appointments from 8am to 4pm. The office can be called at 664-2650, 664-2651, and 664-2652.
At both the clinic and the OVA, appointments are required.