In March, in the communities of Many Farms and Cottonwood/Tselani, Arizona, VA along with the Navajo Nation hosted their first VA claims event, which will duplicated at 21 American Indian and Alaska native reservations nationwide in the upcoming months.
VA’s Office of Tribal Government Relations worked alongside Arizona colleagues to arrange outreach opportunities after hearing concerns from local tribal leaders.
“We are working hand in hand with tribal government leaders to roll out claims events,” said HoMana Pawiki, VA Tribal Government Relations specialist. “With the focus on Veterans and their widows with presumptive disabilities and those who are pension eligible, VA is hopeful we can help Indian Country Veterans access the full range of benefits they have courageously earned through their service.”
The Veterans Benefits Administration’s Phoenix regional benefits office, the Benefits Assistance Service and Pension Management Centers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin provided direct assistance. Employees from the Phoenix regional office and Benefits Assistance Service offered in person hands-on help.
“The two back-to-back events held here in Indian Country provided our Veterans and family members with knowledge about VA benefits they may be entitled to,” said Kee Allen Begay, Jr., Navajo Nation Council delegate. “Nothing is more useful than having face-to-face time with VA staff to openly discuss and ask questions about VA benefits. We will definitely spread the word to other Native American communities encouraging them to host an event.”
During this two-day outreach event, 88 participants were assisted and 49 claims for benefits were received by VA employees.
“As an outreach specialist, I always enjoy getting out of the office and working directly with the Veterans we serve,” said Monica Cabrera, a public affairs officer for the Phoenix regional office. “Having this opportunity at Many Farms and Cottonwood was rewarding for me emotionally and professionally. VA states that Veterans have contributed significantly to the economic sustainability of Indian Country, and I hope they left these two days knowing how appreciative we are for their service.”
Participants were able to speak directly with VA representatives, get answers to benefits questions, file a claim, and get same-day decisions when complete information was shared. Additional VA representatives were on location to provide information on Native American Direct Loan program, Vet Center services and Northern Arizona VA Health Care eligibility and enrollment.
Upcoming Indian Country VA claims events in Navajo Nation will take place April 10 in Kayenta, Arizona, May 8 in Tuba City, Arizona, and June 14 in Chinle, Arizona.