DPS to reimburse veterans

THE Department of Public Safety is working with the Department of Finance to reimburse U.S. military veterans who may have been overcharged for their driver’s license or vehicle plates.

 “We are working on reimbursing the affected veterans,”  DPS Commissioner Robert Guerrero. “We apologize for the misunderstanding; we are currently correcting the issue.”

In a letter to Variety, military veteran Jose Sablan said the Bureau of Motor Vehicles was not aware of CNMI vehicle code regulations. Robert Guerrero

 Sablan said he was denied his right to a 25-percent discount when he tried to get his CNMI driver’s license and the vehicle plate that is supposed to be free for veterans with disabilities.

Asked for comment, BMV Director Juana Deleon Guerrero said her bureau does not process payments for vehicle registration and driver’s license applications.

“We don’t collect fees, it’s the Treasury; upon receiving receipt of payment that is when we process the paperwork.”

Finance Secretary Larissa Larson, for her part, said her department, through the CNMI Treasury, provides a support function to the BMV in collecting fees.

 “We only process and collect fees on public services determined by the BMV. The BMV operates under their own set of regulations, and Finance provides the necessary support for public revenue collections.”

Jose Sablan said his wife recently went to the BMV to register their car and get a veteran license plate.

 “The director told her she couldn’t unless she had a DD 214 [Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty], and that she had to pay $18.73 for the plate.  My wife presented a certification from Veterans Affairs indicating all the necessary information — that I am a…disabled veteran. After a debate back and forth my wife gave up and paid the $60 registration fee without the veteran plate.”

Sablan said 9 CMC § 2116 states that: “The fee for the issuance of a veteran or disabled veteran license plate for first time registration and renewal(s) shall be 25 percent less than the fee charged for a similar license plate for the same class of vehicle. Additionally, no fee shall be charged for the issuance of a veteran or disabled veteran license plate to a veteran rated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at a 100 percent permanent and total disability.”

While  9 CMC § 2202 states that “(1) the operator’s license fee for a veteran shall be 25 percent less than the fee charged for a similar operator’s license.”

Sablan said several days later, he went to the BMV to renew his driver’s license and, as a veteran, he asked for a 25 percent discount.

 “The director told me I couldn’t do it. I asked why. She told me that the law had not been passed yet. I told her ‘If what you’re saying is true, why is the law posted in the vehicle code?’ She didn’t know. I told her to talk to the [attorney general] or their legal counsel. She said she would call me back but she didn’t. I printed a copy of the law which is Public Law 20-39 that clearly demonstrated she was wrong.”

Variety learned that Finance will reimburse Sablan. “It was overlooked by both departments,” said a source who requested anonymity. “An employee made a mistake and is processing the refund to correct it. All staff have also been reminded about the law so that we can avoid mistakes like this in the future.”

 The source said they are thankful to Jose Sablan for bringing up the issue.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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