Office of U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07)
Today, Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM), and Representative Paul Cook (R-CA) introduced the Native VetSuccess at Tribal Colleges and Universities Pilot Program Act which would establish a pilot program at Tribal Colleges and Universities to connect Native veterans to VA services and vocational support. The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) endorsed the bill.
The VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) program places VA counselors on campus to help Veterans, Servicemembers, and their qualified dependents complete their education and prepare them to enter the labor market. VetSuccess on Campus currently provides services to thousands of veterans at 104 institutions of higher education across the country. The Native VetSuccess at Tribal Colleges and Universities Pilot Program Act will establish this innovative and successful model at Tribal Colleges and Universities in order to provide Native veterans:
- Adjustment counseling to help veterans complete education programs and ultimately secure employment
- Vocational testing services
- Educational and career counseling
- Expedited veteran readiness and employment (VR&E) services
- Referrals through VA Medical Centers, Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, or Vet Centers
“Native veterans fought for our country in every war since the American Revolution and serve in our armed forces at higher rates than any other group. However, they have the lowest utilization rate of VA services among veterans,” said Representative Gallego, Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. We are going to change that. This bill invests in the educational and economic future of transitioning Native veterans and ensures we uphold our promises to them after they served our country.”
“After their service in the military, it is important that Native Americans have access to quality education opportunities,” said Representative Cole, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. “As Native Vets attend Tribal Colleges and Universities, providing access to effective tools for success such as educational and career counseling, vocational testing and expedited veteran readiness and employment services will lead to their future success. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation.”
“All veterans deserve the opportunity to achieve academic success, but Native American veterans haven’t been afforded the academic resources that they deserve for vocational training, veteran readiness, and employment services, and it creates many barriers to the options that higher education provides. Our bill will create a pilot program that provides VA counselors on campus so that they can excel in their education and after graduation, which is the least that we can do for the irreplaceable sacrifices they made for our country," said Representative Deb Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
"This bipartisan bill would ensure that our Native veterans are getting the benefits they deserve,” said Representative Cook, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. “It provides Native veterans with better access to essential resources they need to succeed in the labor market upon returning home. I thank my colleagues for their leadership on this issue.”
“The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) commends Congressmen Gallego and Cole for their leadership in supporting the American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans who have served our country,” said Carrie L. Billy, American Indian Higher Education Consortium President and CEO. “Through the Native VetSuccess at Tribal Colleges and Universities Pilot Program Act, Native veterans will receive the support they need to more fully access vitally needed VA educational benefits, counseling services, and transitional services. The importance of this legislation cannot be understated: American Indians and Alaska Natives serve in the Armed Forces at five times the national average, and Native women make up a larger percentage of our veterans compared to other groups. Unfortunately, Native veterans have lower incomes, lower educational attainment, and higher unemployment than other veterans. The services the Gallego-Cole bill would make available could be transformative in Indian Country. We urge Congress to swiftly enact this important bill.”