Tester pushes VA to cut red tape and better assist Native American veterans

Senator urges VA to establish Tribal Veteran Service Officers

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester is pushing the VA to make a critical change to better help Native American veterans navigate the complicated VA claims process.

In a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald, Tester urged the VA to move quickly on a rule change that will allow Tribal Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) to be certified in the same manner as State VSOs. VSOs help veterans file, support, track, and appeal VA claims free of charge.

“Native Americans serve in our armed services at a higher rate than any other demographic in the nation, and they deserve access to the same resources as every other veteran,” Tester said. “Tribal VSOs will understand the needs in Indian Country and help Native American veterans more easily file VA claims and increase their access to health care.”

Currently the VA does not have a national effort to train and accredit VSOs in Native American communities, which leaves many Native American veterans without the face-to-face assistance that non-Native American veterans receive when they file VA claims.

Tester also highlighted that the VA’s transition to electronic claims processing only further limits the options for Native American veterans because only 10 percent of Indian Country has access to broadband internet, compared to 65 percent nationwide.

Earlier this year Tester introduced bipartisan legislation that increases access to job training, career counseling, transportation, and substance abuse assistance for homeless Native American veterans.

Tester’s letter to Secretary McDonald is available HERE.