VA, in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Department of Veterans Affairs’ Women Veterans Program and Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, hosted an in-person Tribal Women Veterans Summit in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Nov. 3.
The goals of the summit are to educate tribal women who served in the military about VA benefits and services they have earned and to better understand the unique gaps and barriers they encounter. The event also provides an opportunity for Tribal women Veterans to voice their opinions and share experiences.
Army Veteran Eleanor McDaniel
In 2020, the Summit was canceled because of pandemic safety concerns. In 2021, it was held virtually.
“We are very excited to have the summit in-person this year,” said VA tribal government relations specialist Mary Culley. “Women Veterans have told me they were eager to see one another, renew relationships, meet new people and engage in beneficial discussions. I always enjoy working directly with the Veterans we serve. Even though we haven’t had the opportunity to meet face-to-face in the last two years, VA used creativity and virtual platforms to help us bridge the gap.”
The summit covered many important topics ranging from employment rights to Military Sexual Trauma, and it provided information to Veterans on various programs, including Women Veteran Workshops and the Peer Mentoring Program. The panel discussion was led by Marine Corps Veteran Melanie Silva and Navy Veteran Marlene Diaz, both VA employees.
“The whole purpose of this event is to try to get tribal women Veteran specific services,” said Silva. “Let them know that it’s okay to feel lost sometimes, but they always have a place and we want to help you find that. I know from personal experience when I got out of the Marine Corps, I was so lost. I didn’t really have a place in my society. It’s important for me to get that word out to let other women Veterans know that there is somebody. The biggest thing is to try to integrate them into their community.”
Tribal Government Relations Specialist Mary Culley
VA staff invited to help understand cultural component
Army Veteran Eleanor McDaniel attended the summit and was surprised to find out how many benefits were available for her. She enjoyed the camaraderie among other Veterans.
“I really learned a lot today,” said McDaniel. “I didn’t know there was so much out there for me as a Veteran. I’m one of the few women Veterans in my tribe so it’s good to connect with other women Veterans here, specifically Native American women Veterans.”
VA staff were also invited to the summit to help understand the cultural component and learn how to better connect with the women they serve.
“This summit is two fold,” said Culley. “First, for the individual Veteran to understand some of the VA services and benefits they are entitled to. The other half is for the staff and the vendors. I often get asked how they can encourage an Indian female Veteran to seek VA care. Hopefully they learned some great takeaways.”
For more information about Tribal Veteran services, contact VA Tribal Government Relations Specialist Mary Culley, (405) 626-3426 or Mary.Culley@va.gov.