Mr. lakopo is correct. The governor doesn’t care about veterans. Well, let me correct that: The governor cares a lot about getting his picture in the local media standing alongside veterans, Veterans Affairs, and military officials and paying lip service to veterans but that’s about as far as his concern, compassion, and follow-through goes.
Let me tell you my experiences. I’m retired from the military and am a fully-disabled veteran with multiple service-related disabilities and other health challenges. CNMI veteran outreach and care is a sad, cruel joke, especially when it comes to the Commonwealth’s responsibility to ensure that veterans receive the benefits, especially health care and mental health support, that the federal government is supposed to deliver and often doesn’t (through no failure of the local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs staff who try their best to help those who have served).
I haven’t received any CNMI stimulus payments (which would help as I live on my fixed military/VA retirement-disability pension) despite submitting all the correct forms and documentation (100% disabled veteran’s pensions are not taxable yet the governor has done nothing to inform his own people at the CNMI Department of Finance of our legal non-tax status). I was also repeatedly denied, along with hundreds of other Saipan residents, the CUC subsidy payments too as my apartment building (following local building codes) has electric service submeters and I pay utilities to the property manager as part of my rent.
So, I repeatedly called the Governor’s Office. Half of the time no one answers the phone. The times that the call goes to voice mail, no one returns the call. When I did leave a message or finally talked with someone, I made it clear as to my resident, service, military retiree and disability status. They either hung up on me as soon as they heard my last name or never called me back after saying they would. Nice way to treat a resident and a disabled veteran…
Then there is the issue of military medical evacuation of Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios at the governor’s request. At the same time as the lieutenant governor’s medical issues, I was dealing with long COVID-19 and multiple heart attacks. The VA in Hawaii forgot about me for over six weeks (they called and apologized and finally sent me to Guam where I underwent tests and an invasive cardiac procedure). Meanwhile the lieutenant governor, who never served in the U.S. military, is airlifted to Hawaii by the U.S. Air Force at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars (maybe as part of a deal with the lieutenant governor?) I, along with all other military retirees, have the privilege of being allowed transportation on any U.S. military aircraft if there is a seat available. I know from talking with other vets at the VA offices and Troop Store that there were other CNMI military retirees who were seriously ill at the same time who could have made use of the transport to Hawaii for military/VA medical care had they been alerted to the medevac flight. I called the Governor’s Office to raise this issue. They hung up on me repeatedly and the person I finally talked with never had anyone return my call.
That’s exactly how much the current governor cares about CNMI veterans. I ask that you please remember my story and the stories of Mr. lakopo and other local veterans when voting in November.
Mark Farmer, USCG ret.