Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez attended the Navajo Nation Veterans Services and Benefit Summit at the UNM-Gallup
Branch on June 24 and shared their vision to have all divisions across the Executive Branch to provide services to Navajo veterans. (Photo by Rick Abasta)
Published January 9, 2016
NAVAJO NATION—Since November 2015, the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP) has initiated a rigorous schedule in presenting the Veterans Act throughout communities across the Navajo Nation. Navajo veterans had voiced the passing of this act as their top issue when the administration was elected into office.
On Thursday, Jan. 7, OPVP held the seventh public hearing regarding the Veterans Act at the Navajo Department of Transportation just east of Tse Bonito, N.M. The intent of the hearing was to present the Veterans Act to Navajo veterans for comment and recommendation.
“It’s a fluid document that is always evolving with the input of the veterans,” said OPVP Executive Assistant and Veterans Liaison Jamescita Peshlakai, “We are open to their comments and are making ourselves accessible to their voices.”
In brief summary, the Veterans Act is trying to establish an elevated office to better assist veterans in accessing federal and state services and benefits. The public hearings are providing veterans the opportunity to assist in creating the office so that it’s most beneficial to them. OPVP recognizes that the veterans know their needs best.
The Veterans Act is legislation that has been in the process of assessment, evaluation and revision for approximately four decades. The Begaye-Nez Administration isn’t the first administration to try and get the act passed through the Navajo Nation Council.
“It’s been defeated in almost every administration,” said Vice President Jonathan Nez. “The window of opportunity is closing fast for this act to go through. If it dies in this administration, the efforts to have it approved might not happen again. We are urging veterans to contact their council delegates immediately.”
Presenting the draft legislation to Navajo veterans with the intent of having it passed and enacted is a top priority for the Begaye-Nez Administration.
President Begaye attended and spoke at the public hearing on Jan. 7, addressing how important veteran participation is in the development and passing of the act. The president reaffirmed that his administration is fully committed to helping Navajo Veterans.
“We are committed to serving our people who sacrificed so much in protecting our freedom, as we know freedom is not free. We will do everything we can to make sure our veterans have a place to live and receive adequate health services. This act will make this a reality but we will have to continue to work hard to overcome barriers that our veterans have to deal with everyday.”