- By Levi Rickert and Kaili Berg
WASHINGTON — Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough announced at the National Congress of American Indians Executive Council Winter Session on Tuesday morning that the Department of Veterans Affairs has exempted or reimbursed more than 143,000 copayments totaling approximately $2.5 million for more than 3,800 eligible American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans.
This is a result of VA’s new 2023 policy that eligible American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans are no longer required to make copayments for VA health care, urgent care, or prescriptions. Under this policy, VA also reimburses for copayments paid on or after January 5, 2022.
“To live their best lives, Veterans need access to affordable health care,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D. “This copayment exemption honors our treaties with sovereign nations and the distinguished service of American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans.”
The copay exemption is a significant step to upholding the federal government’s trust responsibility “to maintain and improve the health of the Indians”. AI/ANs serve in the military at one of the highest rates of any group in the United States, according to the White House.
Many Native veterans receive healthcare from the Veterans Health Administration, an agency within the VA, in addition to utilizing Indian Health Services (IHS), Tribal, and Urban Indian Organization (UIO) facilities.
Eligible Veterans include any American Indian and Alaska Native Veteran who meets the definitions of “Indian” or “urban Indian” under the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.
VA is continuing to receive, review, and process documentation for the copayment exemption. To apply for the copayment exemption, Veterans should mail 1) a completed VA Tribal Documentation Form (VA Form 10-334), and 2) a copy of official tribal documentation to VHA Tribal Documentation at P.O. Box 5100, Janesville, Wisconsin 53547.
Veterans can submit documentation to qualify for the copayment exemption. Eligible Veterans include any Veteran who meets the definitions of “Indian” or “urban Indian” under the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, including Veterans who are members of an American Indian Tribe, certain Veterans who are descendants of Tribe members, Alaska Native Veterans, and more.
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