Legislation Introduced to Improve Health Care Access for American Indian & Alaska Native Veterans in Urban Areas

Published August 3, 2019

The Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act has broad support across Indian Country

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced the Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act (S. 2365 / H.R. TBA) which would improve health care access for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) veterans by providing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) coverage for care that AI/AN veterans receive from Title V Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs). The legislation allows AI/AN veterans better access to culturally-competent care and alleviates burdens on the VA system. In addition to Udall and Khanna, the bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representatives Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.).

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed a resolution in July supporting this legislative fix to help UIOs have the resources to better serve AI/AN veterans. The bill is also supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American, and VoteVets.

“The Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act is important legislation to ensuring that our veterans in urban areas are no longer left behind. Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs will have the explicit authority to reimburse the 41 Title V Urban Indian Organizations who are already providing critical resources for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans who have served the United States,” said NCUIH Executive Director Francys Crevier.

“The National Council of Urban Indian Health has made it a priority to ensure that Urban Indian Organizations are included in the IHS-VA MOU to help provide health care to American Indian and Alaska Native veterans. As a Native veteran myself, I understand the importance of coming home and knowing I have a safe space to receive care. Thank you to my own Representative Ro Khanna,  and we are grateful for the leadership of the 116th Congress in introducing this landmark legislation,” said NCUIH Vice President Sonya Tetnowski.

“At First Nations Community HealthSource, we never turn anyone – veteran or not – away. Native veterans in Albuquerque consider our facility a safe, accessible space to receive health care. With critical underfunding, this legislation would allow all Urban Indian Organizations to finally be reimbursed for the necessary care we already provide to our Native veterans,” said Linda Son-Stone, Chief Executive Officer of First Nations Community HealthSource, an Urban Indian Organization and member of NCUIH.

The NCAI resolution states: “The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) urges Congress to pass legislation that amends the Indian Health Care Improvement Act at 25 U.S.C. §1645(c) to insert UIOs after IHS and Tribal Organizations and require VA to reimburse for services provided to AI/AN veterans at all of the IHS, Tribal, and urban (I/T/U) system, in order to protect the health and welfare of AI/AN veterans living in urban centers, thereby honoring their sacrifices.”

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