Veterans could receive care at Native clinics
An agreement that could allow rural Alaska veterans to receive healthcare benefits at Native health clinics for the first time was commended last week by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich.
The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between 14 Alaska Native tribal health programs and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will allow Alaska veterans to receive health care services in tribal clinics in various parts of Alaska and not have to travel to Anchorage or Seattle to receive services. Under the agreement, the VA will reimburse the participating health care entities for the services, according to a Begich press release.
Under the agreement, participating tribal health programs will have a billing arrangement with the VA to ensure they receive payment for the services provided. The new agreement will also allow non-Native veterans to get care at the participating tribal health facility.
the Alaska VA is coordinating training sessions for Alaska Tribal Health Programs’ staff on VA benefits and eligibility and enrollment processes to encourage and facilitate enrollment of eligible veterans into the VA system. The Alaska VA has a fulltime Rural Health Program Coordinator who facilities outreach and cultivates tribal government relationships to enhance care for Alaska Native/American Indian veterans living in Alaska.
“Coming from rural Alaska didn’t keep thousands of Alaskans from serving their country, and Alaska’s veteran community should not be kept from the medical care they need because of geography,” said Murkowski.
“Alaska Native veterans tell me all the time they’d rather receive health care at the clinic across the street in their village than spend money and time traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to a VA clinic,” Begich said. “This is truly a great step toward ensuring all of Alaska’s veterans can receive the care they need, when they need it, and in the most cost effective and timely way.”
Begich, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs for an agreement with the tribes in Alaska and VA. His idea of an Alaska Heroes Card is one step closer with the reimbursement agreement. Begich’s vision is to have a special card for veterans to use at any health care facility and have the VA reimburse the facility.
The following tribes and tribal organizations have entered into sharing and reimbursement agreements with the VA:
• Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation
• Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
• Arctic Slope Native Association, Ltd.
• Chickaloon Village Traditional Council
• Copper River Native Association
• Eastern Aleutian Tribes, Inc.
• Ketchikan Indian Community
• Kenaitze Indian Tribe
• Kodiak Area Native Association
• Native Village of Eklutna
• SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium
• Southcentral Foundation
• Tanana Chiefs Conference