Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New Office to Serve as Advocates for Tribal Veterans

WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the
creation of a new Office of Tribal Government Relations to ensure the
more than 200,000 Veterans who are American Indians, Alaska Natives,
Hawaiian Natives or are part of the Alaska Native Corporations receive
the VA benefits they have earned.

"There is a long, distinguished tradition of military service among
tribal peoples," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
"VA is committed to providing these Veterans with the full range of VA
programs, as befits their service to our nation."

About 200,000 Veterans are represented by the 800 tribal governments
officially recognized by the United States.  Although VA has long
provided benefits to Veterans in tribal lands, the new office will
further strengthen and expand that relationship.

Stephanie Elaine Birdwell, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation
from Oklahoma, has been selected as the office's first director.  A
former social worker, she has spent nearly 15 years working on tribal
issues with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and, most recently, the Bureau
of Indian Education.

She will oversee a six-person office responsible for "establishing,
maintaining and coordinating a nation-to-nation, federal-tribal
relationship," according to a VA briefing.

The office has a charter that officially extends to Veterans who are
American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Native

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