Touting the success of tribal agreements in Alaska allowing veterans to get health care closer to home, U.S. Senator Mark Begich pressed Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki on Tuesday to implement a nationwide program like Alaska's to allow rural veterans to get care closer to home.
Begich helped broker the agreement between the VA and tribes to help rural veterans far from VA facilities get care at the facility closest to their home, which is often an Indian Health Service or tribal facility.
"Veterans deserve care no matter where they live. Last year alone, more than 900 Alaskans -- both native and non-native- were given care closer to home," said Begich. "These agreements have helped save thousands of dollars for individual veterans who might otherwise have to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest VA facilty."
Begich revisited the issue at a hearing yesterday of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veteran Affairs and Related Agencies, of which he is a member.
Currently, all 26 Alaska tribes have an agreement with the VA to provide care to veterans, agreements that Begich helped broker. As a result, millions of dollars now stay in communities as a result of the VA reimbursements to tribal facilities.
Begich was also sure to press on the importance of his Advance Appropriations bill that would advance fund all VA accounts so that in the event of another government shutdown veterans would receive their benefits and checks without interruption.
Begich has a long record of working to streamline services and outreach to veterans. He introduced the Alaska Hero's Card which lead to negotiated agreements between Alaska Native tribal health organizations and the VA to allow rural veterans to access health care closer to home instead of traveling to Anchorage or Seattle.