VA and Indian Health Service Announce National Reimbursement Agreement

American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans will soon have increased access to health care services closer to home following a recent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) joint national agreement.

A joint national agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) will soon provide American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) veterans with access to health care services cloer to home, states a press release.

"There is a long, distinguished tradition of military service among tribes," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "VA is committed to expanding access to native veterans with the full range of VA programs, as earned by their service to our nation."

Through the intiative, VA is now able to reimburse the IHS for direct care services provided to eligible American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans. While the agreement applies strictly to VA and IHS, it will guide agreements negotiated between the VA and tribal health programs. Under the agreement, copayments will not be covered by the VA for direct care services provided by the IHS to eligible AI/AN veterans.

"The VA and IHS, in consultation with the federally-recognized tribal governments, have worked long and hard to come to an equitable agreement that would ensure access to quality health care would be made available to our Nation's heroes living in tribal communities," said Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health, Veterans Health Administration, in a statement. "This agreement will also strengthen VA, IHS and tribal health programs by increasing access to high-quality care for Native Veterans, particularly those in highly rural areas."

To view the national agreement, visit: www.va.gov. To find out additional information about American Indian and Alaska Native Veteran programs, visit: www.va.gov/tribalgovernment and http://www.ihs.gov/.

"This reimbursement agreement between the VA and the IHS will help improve health care services for American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans and further the IHS mission and federal responsibility of raising the health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level possible," said Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, director of the Indian Health Service. "This IHS-VA agreement will allow our federal facilities to work with the VA more closely as we implement this critical provision in the recently reauthorized Indian Health Care Improvement Act, passed as part of the Affordable Care Act."

There are currently 154,305 AI/AN veterans, among them, 27 have received an American Indian Congressional Medal of Honor. About 18.9 percent of AI/AN veterans suffer from a service-connected disability, compared to 15.6 percent of non-AI/AN veterans. More AI/AN veterans live in California than any other state: 18,398; followed by Oklahoma with 14,348.