Conference to Assist Veterans Get Earned Benefits Set

Kewa Veterans honoring SWNAVA Board Chairman Ramus Suina

Kewa Veterans honoring SWNAVA Board Chairman Ramus Suina

Published August 26, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE– Native American and non-Native American veterans seeking information or aid in attaining earned benefits will get some help during a conference September 20-22, 2015. The Southwest Native American Veterans Association (SWNAVA) and the Pueblo of Isleta Veteran’s Association will host the second Annual Southwest Regional Veterans Conference, Speak with One Voice to Shape Policy: Veterans Rising for Healing, at the Isleta Resort & Casino.

The conference comes a year after news reports of veterans dying of health complications after waiting for care at a Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital. Congress passed the Veterans Choice Program in response to the report and discovering long wait times at other VA hospitals across the country, including in Albuquerque.

The program, which called for the hiring of more VA doctors and nurses and the construction of 26 new facilities, among other provisions, also allowed veterans who live more than 40 miles away from the closest VA health care center to seek treatment from another health care facility.

Although this program is in place there are still many veterans, especially Native American veterans living on the reservation, who have no health care access, even primary care,” said Marvin Trujillo, Jr., SWNAVA chairman. “This conference will help veterans get information to find the services they need.”Some health care facilities are located more than 100 miles away from reservations. Other veterans do not have electronic access as the VA makes it way toward a paperless agency. Other vets aren’t aware of all the benefits available, including home loans, educational aid, employment assistance, extended care and VA reimbursements to Indian Health Service.

More than 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans live in the U.S., with 14,000 in New Mexico, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

State and federal VA representatives will speak about health care, housing, pensions, business loans, and educational and burial services. Top-level representatives of the VA’s Office of Tribal Government Relations and Center for Minority Veterans, as well as U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), will also address event attendees. Free health care screenings will also be available.

A fundraising golf tournament, gourd dance, and a walk and run will also be part of the conference. Cost is $25 or $30 with a guest. For more information or to register, go towww.swnava.org. Photos of last year’s conference for use can be seen on the organization’s Facebook page.

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