Washington D.C., May 24, 2019– Near the conclusion of his visit to the United States, His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), met with the Honorable Robert Wilkie, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The two had met earlier at the occasion of His Excellency’s visit to Arlington National Cemetery.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss specific issues on how to improve support to veterans of the U.S. military residing in the FSM. These issues include veterans’ access to healthcare, home loans, education, and other benefits available to all veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces but whom veterans who are from, and reside in, the FSM have had difficulty in fully utilizing.
Veterans from the FSM who have served honorably continue to face difficult challenges in being able to access benefits that they are eligible for, simply based on the fact that they work and reside in the FSM. The United States Government is working to change that; the introduction in the U.S. Congress of the COFA Veterans Review Act represents the first step in improving the process.
The Act, upon passage, will require the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a three-year pilot program to enable U.S. military veterans from, and residing in, the FSM to have access to an electronic database in order to simplify registration requirements, the promotion and ease-of-use in distance-learning educational opportunities, and the establishment of a tele-health network.
Regardless of the status of the Act pending in the U.S. Congress, Secretary Wilkie and his Department clearly recognize the shortcomings in the access process, and are moving forward with ways to adequately address veterans’ needs in the interim. The Secretary emphasized the fact that his proposed budget submissions to the U.S. Congress are the largest in history, partly because of plans to widen the scope of delivering benefits to all eligible veterans, and to improve the current service delivery processes as well. He was quick to point out that FSM veterans and enlistments are the highest rates per capita of any other country, including the United States itself, and how appreciative the U.S. has been regarding the honorable service and, most importantly, the ultimate sacrifice paid by some of those veterans.
As part of the emphasis and importance that the United States places in this effort, Secretary Wilkie has indicated the U.S. Government’s intent for him to visit the FSM, and attend the National Joint Inauguration ceremony on July 29th, 2019; Secretary Wilkie advised that he looks forward to meeting as many veterans as he can during his short visit.