Karen Gooden was appointed Director of the Honolulu Regional Office in March 2015. As Director, she is responsible for administering a range of VA benefits to more than 129,900 Veterans and their beneficiaries in highly rural and remote locations throughout Hawaii and the South Pacific region, including Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan, Tinian and Rota). The office provides outreach to the Insular Islands of the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia encompassing a geographic area of 4.6 million miles. Prior to this appointment, Ms. Gooden was the Assistant Director of the Boston VA Regional Office. She also assisted the Director in the management of the Manchester and White River Junction VA Regional Offices. Ms. Gooden is a U. S. Army Veteran.
Melissa Kaekel was appointed to the Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Officer position in July 2015. She began her career with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006 as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in Michigan. She has been stationed in the Detroit RO, out based offices (Saginaw and Lansing), a Vet Center (Saginaw), and VA Medical Centers (Saginaw, Battle Creek, and Ann Arbor). She served as the acting Assistant VRE Officer in Buffalo, NY, in Fall 2014.
Ms Kaekel is a graduate of Michigan State University (MA, Rehabilitation Counseling, and BA, Psychology) and Delta College (Assoc. in Psychology and Assoc. in General Studies). She is a graduate of the VA’s Leadership Enhancement and Development (LEAD) program.
In her current role she is responsible for the oversight of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors providing services for Servicemembers participating in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) program and Veterans and their families participating in the VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) program. The IDES program assists transitioning Servicemembers with vocational rehabilitation services during their transition from active duty military, and the VSOC program provides Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families with support in pursuit of education. She also oversees Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors providing services for Veterans with service-connected disabilities who are returning to work.
Raymond Chang was appointed to this position in January 2012. The Honolulu RO Home Loan Guaranty program provides assistance to Veterans, Servicemembers, their families and survivors with home purchases, construction, and loan refinancing; the Native American Direct Loan program; and Specially Adapted Housing grants to Veterans who reside in the Honolulu RO service area.
Mr. Chang has more than 26 years with the Honolulu RO. He was hired as a Staff Appraiser in 1986 and was promoted to Senior Appraiser/Special Adapted Housing Agent. Prior to working with VA, he was an Appraiser for Hawaii and for Honolulu city and county.
Mr. Chang graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree.