The Department of Veterans Affairs hosted its first tribal consultation focused on providing services to American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans in Washington, D.C., on April 5.
"The only way we can fully address the concerns of these Veterans is through a consistent and comprehensive dialogue," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We consider these meetings vital to that effort.
"This was the first of four scheduled meetings VA plans to hold in 2012 to address the needs of the American Indian and Alaska Native Veteran population, currently estimated at 200,000.
The meetings focused on areas concerning the three major components of VA. Within the Veterans Benefits Administration, the discussion centered on the Native American Direct Loan Program, which enables eligible Veterans to use their VA home loan guaranty benefit on federal trust land.
Included in the topics covered by the Veterans Health Administration was a discussion on how VA can engage tribes in activities related to an agreement with the Indian Health Service. The agreement seeks ways to enhance the health care of American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans through greater collaboration and resource-sharing between both agencies.
Finally, the National Cemetery Administration explored ways of increasing awareness of a public law stipulating that grants to tribal organizations will be made in the same manner as grants to states.
"The meeting was productive and allowed everyone involved to provide their unique insights on the issues," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs John Garcia. "We think it established a good foundation for progress the rest of this year."