The CNMI Office of Veterans Affairs’ recent outreach to veterans on Tinian reopened discussions on the need for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-contracted clinic to cater to veterans’ medical needs, said OVA executive officer Stanley T. Iakopo.
Iakopo and accredited Veterans Benefits counselor Willie Peterson III flew to Tinian Tuesday last week to meet with veterans living on the island. Plans are in the works to conduct a similar OVA outreach on Rota.
Iakopo said that many topics were brought up during his and Peterson’s sit-downs with Tinian veterans, specifically the financial hardships and other challenges that Tinian veterans face when they find themselves needing healthcare services that are covered by their veterans’ benefits.
Currently, the CNMI only has one Veterans Affairs-contracted outreach clinic, which is at the Marina Heights II Business Plaza in Puerto Rico, Saipan. Veterans on Tinian who need veteran-centric healthcare services have to fly to Saipan at their own expense.
“Veterans on Tinian are having hardships in terms of trying to travel to [Saipan] to receive [veteran-specific] medical services. …They’re still facing financial hardships and dealing with other challenges [because] they don’t have a VA facility or VA doctor on Tinian. …Issues with traveling, issues with finances, and paying for their travels to come [to Saipan] were discussed,” said Iakopo.
Other topics discussed during the outreach included the need to have a VA representative or representatives as part of the Tinian Mayor’s Office and the need to prioritize the hiring of veterans for these VA-related positions, Iakopo added.
Saipan Tribune earlier reported that Iakopo met with Dr. Adam M. Robinson Jr., who is director of the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Healthcare System at the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Honolulu, Hawaii, to discuss the need to better serve veterans living on Tinian and Rota.
In that meeting with Robinson last May, Iakopo proposed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pursue a mutually beneficial partnership with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., allowing CHCC’s medical health centers on Tinian and Rota to expand its services and serve as Veterans Affairs outreach clinics.
In an interview in June, Iakopo clarified that veterans on Tinian and Rota can go to and have been going to the CHCC health centers on their respective islands. However, adding on to the health centers’ services and having them recognized as DVA-contracted outreach clinics will allow the medical centers to be part of the DVA’s healthcare system and allow veterans on Tinian and Rota to avail of their veterans’ benefits, such as the DVA covering costs of medical services.
Iakopo said Tuesday that he is still working closely with Robinson and that he continues to advocate for a DVA-CHCC partnership.