WASHINGTON – As an ongoing effort to advocate for Navajo Veterans, President Nygren met with Secretary of Veteran Affairs Denis R. McDonough to discuss several priorities to bring veteran services to the Navajo Nation.
During a one-hour discussion, President Nygren and Secretary McDonough discussed several critical issues, including the need for a VA medical center to provide comprehensive medical services to Navajo veterans as well as a veteran benefit outreach center to serve as a hub for a variety of services that include non-emergency and non-urgent care services typically found outside of a VA medical center, such as physical or occupational therapy, mental health services, vocational training and education, temporary or transitional housing, and transportation services, as well as serving as an administrative facility for Navajo Nation, state, and federal VA staff to administer program services.
Additionally, the President inquired about potential funding sources to construct a museum in honor of the contributions of our Navajo Code Talkers.
“As you know, many of our Navajo veterans live several hours away from VA medical facilities, especially larger in-patient facilities that can provide the full range of services that our veterans may need. We must ensure our Navajo veterans have access to adequate health care no matter where they live,” said President Nygren.
Secretary McDonough was drawn to the idea of having a new medical center within the Navajo Nation and expressed the department’s intent to further look into the feasibility of such a project.
The President further thanked the Secretary for his recent efforts in ensuring that all Native American veterans have access to healthcare services.
He applauded the department’s recent announcement in April to waive the co-pays of all Native American veterans. “This has been something that our Navajo veterans have been looking forward to for a long time, and we are grateful that it has finally been made a reality.”
Additionally, the President and the Secretary discussed the potential of having a mobile VA claims processing unit that would draw resources from the Navajo Nation, surrounding states, and the Department of Veteran Affairs to process claims and conduct medical examinations for those who are eligible under the PACT Act.
The PACT Act is perhaps the most extensive health care and benefits expansion in VA history. The law’s full name is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.
The PACT Act will bring these changes:
Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
Adds 20+ more presumptive conditions for burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic exposures
Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA healthcare
Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures
Over the next few weeks, the Office of the President and Vice President, the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration, and the Navajo Nation Washington Office will continue the discussion with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to bring the concept of a mobile VA claims processing unit to fruition.