VA officials discuss health care for CNMI veterans

IMPROVING CARE: Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Veterans Affairs Executive Officer Stanley T. Iakopo, center, meets with, from left, Tri-West Pacific Regional Director Karl Kiyokawa; VA Pacific Islands Health Care System Director; Jennifer Gutowski, VA Honolulu Regional Office Director; Sergio Chao, VA Honolulu Regional Office Program Analyst; Aiko Shibuya, Executive Assistant to VA Director/Facility Strategic Planner; and Craig Oswald. Photo courtesy of Office of the Governor

SAIPAN – Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Honolulu were on Saipan to discuss ways the two jurisdictions can work together to improve health care services for veterans, service members, reservists and their families on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

According to Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Veterans Affairs Executive Officer Stanley T. Iakopo, veterans have served the CNMI and the country and have not only earned but also deserve quality health care and benefits. 

“Over the last several months, we have been continuously seeking better access and services through partnerships with our Honolulu partners. These meetings are significant because our administration is looking to establish a closer and consistent dialogue with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs directly so that our local veterans are heard. It is imperative that we continue to listen and learn directly from our veterans,” Iakopo said.

Iakopo said the officials discussed having health care professionals visit the CNMI more regularly to treat veterans, service members and their families. Future visits by these health care professionals will be provided at a later date, according to the press release. He reiterated the CNMI’s request for assistance to veterans with ID cards, especially for veterans on Tinian and Rota.

“We also requested that visiting health care professionals must be aware of the patient’s military history and be able to recognize suicide-risk factors, regardless of age. Health care professionals must be able to address physical safety concerns and emotional health of veterans,” Iakopo added.

“Continued and consistent dialogue with our federal partners is important, but even more so for our veterans who have expressed their concerns with our VA office,” said Gov. Ralph Torres. “The goal is for consistent dialogue, and we took great steps this last year to really make sure our CNMI veterans get the services they deserve.”