Navajo Nation becomes first tribe in the U.S. to meet special criteria aimed at helping veterans

GALLUP, N.M. —

The Navajo Nation is the first tribe in the country to get a special accreditation to help veterans.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough visited Gallup on Tuesday. During his visit, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, U.S. Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, among other elected officials, announced that the Navajo Nation Veterans Administation is the first tribal nation to meet the criteria and standards to allow veteran service officers on the reservation to help veterans with benefit and pension claims.

“We have a lot of Vets who are illiterate,” Cassandra Morgan, a Marine Vet attending the announcement, said.

Veterans KOAT spoke with said filling out VA paperwork can be complicated. Morgan said this will have a huge impact on Navajo veterans, who often just need someone to explain the process to them.

“There’s somebody there who can actually help these veterans navigate through the whole system,” Morgan said.

Before this accreditation, veterans living on reservation land would often drive two or more hours way to Albuquerque and Prescott, Arizona, to get help from an accredited VA staff. Now that Navajo veterans service staff have this accreditation, the veterans can get assistance in Gallup.”I’m supposed to fight like hell for all veterans. There’s a lot of veterans here in New Mexico, and there’s a lot of veterans here among Native Americans in New Mexico,” McDonough said. Recommended Here’s what to know about Tuesday’s unexpected Jan. 6 hearing Nez said 83 claims have been filed from May […]

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