Ads by Google Ads by Google


Dear Editor,  

I am writing to bring some light into the Department of Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty (NADL) program currently processed by the American Samoa Development Bank (DBAS).

The process administered by DBAS is a most frustrating and prohibitive procedure and our Veterans deserve better.

The application process consists of two parts: 1st check list is getting all your banking statements, land title ownership papers, identifications, income verification, tax documents etc.; 2nd check list is getting information on construction, such as:

- estimate of material and labor

- develop contract agreement with your Contractor

- get Land Use permits

- Site plan

- Blueprint to get building permit

- Develop VA Description Material for construction

- Plot plan

- Demolition permit if needed

- Ownership Survey and registered land title

Once all these documents are completed, they must be submitted to DBAS to submit to the VA Representative in Honolulu or Phoenix for review and appraisal and approval.

This is where DBAS lacks understanding in time-managing the Veterans’ complete Application and Documentation.

It appears to me that loan folks for this program at DBAS lack full understanding of what the job entails — this is to facilitate the Veterans documentation and needs for their loan process to the Veteran’s Affairs Office.  NOT to be the actual loan approval person — that is the VA Loan representative’s job, NOT DBAS.

Another factor, is the lack of understanding by DBAS inspectors, in that, VA has provided a guideline in what is to be inspected for completion of each phase of construction. Seems like Inspectors are creating their own requirements not within the specification of the VA’s required phases and disbursement schedule; and unfortunately, the inspectors report of each phase determine what VA will be approved to pay for Labor and Materials.

This has created much animosity between DBAS inspectors, contractor and the Veteran homeowner.

My personal experience with DBAS is a lack of understanding and compassion, and most of all the lack of common sense in dealing with our Veterans..

We are constructing our home and we have nothing but positive dealings with the folks at VA, specifically, Mr. James Lewis, for his kind assistance and flexibility for our extraordinary situation here in American Samoa, our remote location and the limited supply and variety of materials for construction. However, there are times, I feel that VA HNL folks off island are just acquiescing to the DBAS people because they cannot be on island to monitor and make better decisions for our Veteran Community. So, perhaps the VA program also needs an overhaul of policies to step up to modernizing this program.

VA representatives came to American Samoa in August, and held a meeting with Veterans to update and provide awareness of the NADL program. This meeting was a good forum for the Veterans to voice their opinions and direct their issues to VA on how this program is being processed by DBAS. The VA mistake was not providing ample time to interview each recipient and find out what issues they were encountering.

I would like to see VA representatives do their due diligences and make time to meet not only with Veterans, BUT, also with Contractors that they have provided an approval code to construct VA financed homes.

VA needs to really look at the sound financial ability of each Contractor as well as their past track record in constructing VA homes. 

It was so sad, that during the meeting, a DBAS official commented to a Veteran saying “you would think this money is the Veteran’s money?” What this official lacks is knowing that at the end of the day THIS MONEY BELONGS TO THE VETERAN, AS A LOAN! IT’S NOT FREE MONEY!! Shame on you!!

Additionally, there is the limited numbers of Contractors that are willing to build homes for the VA/ DBAS program.

However, I believe the VA is partially to blame, in that, they “lead-on” the folks at DBAS, rather than directing DBAS to modernize the way they implement this VA program for the benefits of all Veterans.

A Loan Officer at DBAS went as far as to contact another Contractor of her liking and asking the Veteran to select them, over who the Veteran had already selected and committed to. Seems like a gross mismanagement of power to me.

Perhaps the most frustrating issue, is the slow method of getting payment(s) out for materials and for labor by DBAS, when the availability of technology in getting payment out in a matter of hours is available — DBAS takes 4 weeks to 6 weeks to get payment out to the Veteran — how can this be possible in this day and age of technological advances?

We have been blessed to select our Contractor of choice, and with VA approval, they have been able to “front” each phase cost of material and labor, and then at the end of each phase, we would review all the invoices submitted for reimbursement and approve and forward them to DBAS/ VA for payment.

This system was approved by VA, however, DBAS is still doing the “stone age” system of Veteran going to the store, get quotes, come back to DBAS and if approved, cut check and then go back and buy from the vendor… and guess what, by the time the Veteran returns to buy materials, all is out of stock!

Here is an option for the VA NADL representative to consider, eliminate DBAS as the middle man altogether. Have Contractors “front the cost of each phase” provide receipts/ invoices to the Veteran for review and approval, have the Veteran submit to VA representative and have VA direct deposit the approved reimbursement funds directly to the Contractor’s banking account.

Goodness, they do this in the USA, and with our technology, why not do the same here in American Samoa? Times have changed, and we need to go with the changed times!

I call upon all our Veterans, come forward and speak up about your experiences with DBAS.  “Stand-up” and say something or contact your Congresswoman to resolve how the Veterans are being “bullied” by the bank employees that are managing this program, and review and update the NADL program procedures. Contact your Congresswoman and let her know about this grossly mismanaged service that is currently plaguing her Constituents in American Samoa, her home!

What is my solution?

Hire a Veteran that can provide better customer service to our Veteran population, has compassion, uses common sense, thinks outside of the box, takes initiative to help the veteran as each situation is different — and takes pride in helping resolve complicated issues arising in residing in a remote island for shipping, high-cost materials and helping the VA Office address such issues that will benefit our local Veterans, while servicing this great loan program for our Veterans’ benefit.

Someone that understands the PDST [Post traumatic stress disorder] and other issues that these Veterans had to endure from the war zone and finding a middle ground that will benefit our local Veterans, the community that has sacrificed so much for our freedom.

Now, our Contractor and I just found out that for some reason, DBAS has talked VA administrators into no longer including “construction contingency funds” to the Veteran’s overall construction loan. Everywhere, construction has contingency funds added, but more important for American Samoa, because materials are imported in and shipping costs are high!

More flexibility and a more common sense approach must to be provided to our Veterans.


Time to modernize the system and begin to think more productively in serving our local Veterans.

This open letter in the media, is an effort to get those that handle Veterans Home loans to be accountable for their actions and how their decisions (and lack of) play a vital role on the Veterans’ well-being…  for these Vets are already traumatized with several deployments and then to return home to endure this.

We apologize if this letter offends some people, however, the intention is to bring to light the service and the silent suffering we Veterans are enduring unnecessarily at the hands of our own people.

Ma le Fa’aloalo lava,

Vesiai Poyer Samuelu - US Navy Veteran

Virginia Samuelu - Honorably Discharged Air Force Reservist