Three Native veterans health bills become law, provides greater access to healthcare services

(Photo: National Indian Health Board)

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Veterans Affairs Tribal Advisory Committee to be established

News Release

National Indian Health Board

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) applauded Congress for passing several significant bills – Native American Veterans PACT Act, the Veterans Affairs Tribal Advisory Committee Act and the PRC for Native Veterans Act – that impact the delivery, access and coordination of healthcare for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) veterans who receive care from both the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Veterans Administration (VA).

“As a Native veteran who uses healthcare services at both the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Administration, I am happy to see Congress take action on bills that make it a little easier for our veterans to get care and upholds the federal government’s responsibility to watch out for the brave men and women who protected our freedoms,” said National Indian Health Board Acting Chairman William “Bill” Smith who is a Vietnam Veteran. “American Indian and Alaska Native veterans deserve to go to the clinic and get care without worrying about payments. Our Tribal leaders and advocates should be included when the Veterans Administration makes policy decisions. These bills ensure that Native veterans are covered, and our care is coordinated.”

The Native American Veterans PACT Act eliminates copayments for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans accessing Veterans Administration healthcare and removes a significant barrier for Native veteran’s care. The PACT Act also brings parity between those American Indian and Alaska Native veterans Indian Heath Service and Medicaid. Currently, American Indian and Alaska Native veterans must pay a copayment before receiving services at the Veterans Administration. In the fiscal year 2017, approximately 30% of American Indian and Alaska Native veterans were charged copayments, averaging approximately $281.56 per veteran.

The Veterans Affairs Tribal Advisory Committee Act of 2019 establishes a Veterans Affairs Tribal Advisory Committee (VATAC) that provides a discussion forum to gain useful feedback from Indian Country issues and solutions within the Veterans Administration and advises the Secretary on improving policy, programs and services for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans.

“Tribal leaders, Native veterans and even the Government Accountability Office have expressed that the Veterans Administration needs to engage with Tribal stakeholders to get a better understanding of how our veterans receive their care. Creating the Veterans Affairs Tribal Advisory Committee builds a stronger relationship between the Veterans Administration and Tribal nations and helps increase awareness and understanding of the unique issues affecting American Indian and Alaska Native veterans who use the Veterans Administration for care,” said National Indian Health Board CEO Stacy A. Bohlen.

The PRC for Native Veterans Act amends the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) to clarify that the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense are required to reimburse the Indian Heath Service and Tribally-run health programs for healthcare services provided to American Indian and Alaska Native veterans through an authorized referral. Before the bill, the Veterans Administration did not reimburse Indian Heath Service or Tribally-run programs for the cost of services provided by the Purchased Referred Care (PRC) program. Indian Heath Service is codified under federal law as the payer of last resort.

To learn more about National Indian Health Board’s advocacy on American Indian and Alaska Native veteran’s health, visit www.nihb.org.  

About National Indian Health Board

Established by the tribes to advocate as the united voice of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, National Indian Health Board seeks to reinforce Tribal sovereignty, strengthen Tribal health systems, secure resources, and build capacity to achieve the highest level of health and well-being for our people.

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