Vet Center services to launch in the Marianas
Saipan— Vet Center services will soon be available to Marianas veterans, CNMI Delegate Gregorio Camacho 'Kilili' Sablan announced Thursday.
The initial outreach visit by Guam Vet Center providers is scheduled for next Wednesday, Feb. 28 on Saipan. Outreach visits to Tinian and Rota are planned for March.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vet Centers provide veterans, service members, and their families with a wide range of mental health and social services at no cost,” Sablan said. “These outreach visits by the Guam Vet Center are an important first step in the right direction. Our ultimate goal is to establish a Vet Center of our own, right here in the Northern Marianas.”
The Guam Vet Center’s initial visits to Saipan, Tinian, and Rota will be needs assessments with veterans and other stakeholders. The congressional office is working with Guam Vet Center Director Dr. Edward Santos to identify stakeholder groups and coordinate meetings. Counseling services through on-island visits and telehealth are set to begin in March.
According to Dr. Santos, Vet Centers serve as “access points” to the full range of VA services, including health care, benefits, education, and readjustment counseling.
“Our motto is ‘Keeping the Promise,’ and veterans are given a welcome home and may walk on in at any time to a Vet Center,” Santos said. “Currently there are at least 300 Vet Centers throughout the country. Having a Vet Center in the Northern Marianas will be a critical bridge in accessing VA Services.”
A member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Sablan met with VA Secretary David Shulkin and his staff several times last year and again on Feb. 14 in Washington to discuss the needs of Marianas veterans, including the need for a Vet Center. Within hours of that February 14 meeting, Dr. Santos notified the congressional office that he had received VA approval to move forward with services to the Marianas.