‘SMA working on being VA-recognized’

Posted on Jan 27 2022

The CNMI Office of Veterans Affairs is currently working closely with Star Marianas Air so that U.S. veterans who fly to Saipan to obtain care will have their airfare reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

CNMI Office of Veterans Affairs executive officer Stanley T. Iakopo said Monday this will resolve one of the challenges faced by veterans living on Tinian and Rota, when they have to pay out of pocket for airfare to fly out and receive care on Saipan.

Iakopo said he is working closely with Star Marianas Air to make the airline a recognized and reimburseable entity by USVA. He said that Star Marianas is working on securing all necessary certifications and requirements to be recognized as a reimbursable vendor. Iakopo added that he is putting Star Marianas in contact with the chief of transportation of the VA Regional Office in Honolulu, Hawaii to further aid Star Marianas through the process.

“That is what we’re working on right now. …[Star Marianas] has already got all the certifications, went through all the processing, filled out all the applications,” said Iakopo.

Last week, Iakopo visited the VA Regional Office in Honolulu, Hawaii, to discuss with VA officials this air travel challenge as well as other challenges faced by CNMI veterans.

“Hopefully, after that is finalized, veterans from Rota and Tinian [will not] have this issue. That is one of the things that I’m pushing for, for the VA to assist the local carrier,” said Iakopo.

He told Saipan Tribune last July that CNMI veterans go to and have been going to the Commonwealth Health Center on Saipan and the health centers on Tinian and Rota.

However, the CNMI only has one Veterans Affairs-contracted outreach clinic, which is currently at the Marina Heights II Business Plaza in Puerto Rico, Saipan. Veterans on Tinian and Rota who need veteran-centric healthcare services have to fly to Saipan at their own expense.

Joshua Santos | Reporter
Joshua Santos is a Mount Carmel School AlumKnight and University of Florida Gator Grad with a passion for writing. He is one of Saipan Tribune’s newest reporters. Josh enjoys golf, chess, and playing video games with friends in his spare time. Reach out to him @rarebasedjosh on all socials.
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