Veterans who are members of the Navajo Nation now have more options when it comes to support for pursuing VA benefits claims.

As of May 2, the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration is the first tribal organization recognized by VA to assist Native American Veterans with their benefits claims. The recognition request was initiated through VA’s Tribal Representation Expansion Project aimed at expanding access to competent, qualified representation for Native American Veterans.

Veterans who live on tribal land and within tribal communities deserve access to representation regarding their VA benefits claims as any other Veteran. The Tribal Representation Expansion Project will enhance representation for Native Americans while honoring tribal sovereignty by promoting avenues toward accreditation within tribal communities.

Department of Defense statistics show Native Americans serve in the military among the highest rates per capita compared to other ethnic groups. 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data show there are more than 140,000 living Native American Veterans. Additionally, Native American Veterans are more likely to have a service-connected disability than Veterans of other races (30% to 23% respectively). Despite high rates of enlistment and service connection, a lower percentage of Native American Veterans, 41.6%, used at least one VA benefit or service, compared to 52.7% of Veterans of other races. This suggests many Native Americans may not know they are eligible for a wide variety of benefits and services available to all U.S. military Veterans.

VA established the Tribal Representation Expansion Project to expand access to complete claims services for Native American Veterans to ensure they are pursuing the benefits they are entitled to receive. Through T-REP, VA aims to increase the options for Native American Veterans to receive assistance with their benefits claims when presenting to VBA and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

For information on VA benefits, you may be entitled to go to Benefits A-Z. To learn about VA benefits specific to Native American Veterans, go to the Native American Veterans page. For Tribal governments interested in participating in T-REP, email OGCTREP@va.gov.

By By VA Secretary Denis McDonough

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Published on Jun. 27, 2022

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