An agreement has been reached between the Navajo Nation and the state of Arizona to give tribal veterans better access to services. Historically there’s been a lack of infrastructure for medical and other veterans’ benefits on the reservation. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The agreement is the first of its kind between a state and an Indian nation. It’ll allow the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Affairs to train and accredit Navajo VA employees to file claims on behalf of tribal veterans. They’ll work through offices on the Navajo Nation to expedite services.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye says under the agreement veterans will no longer have to travel off the reservation to access federal benefits.
“Now, with this certification it opens up the door for more services for veterans, and so anything and everything that’s provided for veterans in the state of Arizona will now be provided on Navajo,” Begaye says.
There are between 10,000 and 40,000 Navajo veterans, but tribal authorities say recorded keeping by the Navajo VA has been inadequate.
Legislation signed into law earlier this year requires updating the Navajo VA’s recordkeeping system.