DESPITE the challenges that the CNMI and the rest of the Pacific Islands are facing in availing themselves of health care benefits for veterans, progress has been noted, according to Dr. James E. Hastings, director of the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System.
|Tracey Betts, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration of the Honolulu Regional Office, updates veterans about the benefits they’re entitled to. Photo by Raquel C. Bagnol|
He flew in yesterday from Hawaii for the first veterans appreciation and outreach program on island.
He said he is very pleased with the progress in providing benefits to the veterans in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the CNMI.
Hastings has been serving veterans for over 50 years and visiting the CNMI for the past six years to ensure the delivery of healthcare to the veterans here.
“We are on the right track to develop significant standards on how veterans should be taken care of,” he said.
Veterans Affairs, he added, was able to address two new concerns — the special needs of women veterans and the homeless.
Hastings noted that 15 percent of the armed forces are women.
Homelessness is another issue that the VA office is addressing, he said.
“Our goal is to end homelessness of veterans in the next three years — one tough assignment but we are making progress,” Hastings said.
In Hawaii, Hastings said about 40 percent of the homeless veterans have been housed and resources have been made available to give shelter to veterans on the streets and help them get back on track with their lives.
Hastings said the VA outreach has changed and evolved in many ways for the past 20 years.
“We have developed VA clinics in and gone out to smaller areas with lesser populations,” he added.
U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, in his message, said the VA clinic on Saipan is just the first step to increase the base level of medical care for the veterans in the CNMI.
Acting Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the government recognizes the efforts of the VA clinic and the benefits provided to local veterans.
Tracey Betts, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration of the Honolulu regional office, said services have been improving for the veterans in the CNMI.
The veterans appreciation and outreach event was held yesterday at the MH2 Building in Puerto Rico.
(Published at the Marianas Variety)