Murkowski Lauds Potential Alaska Tribal Health, VA Partnership

“Local Care for Rural Alaska Veterans Does Not Mean Care in Anchorage. It Means Care Close to Home When It Is Available”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Veterans Administration plans to unveil an agreement that could allow rural Alaska veterans to receive healthcare benefits at Native health clinics for the first time.  Senator Murkowski had the following response to the announcement:

“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.  From my first day in the U.S. Senate, ensuring that veterans are not disenfranchised from their earned VA benefits by reason of geography has been a core priority.

“I convened a field hearing five years ago spotlighting where improvements needed be made, inserted language into legislation authorizing the VA to reimburse the Alaska Native health system for rural veterans’ care, and at last year’s AFN I stayed at the Veteran’s listening session until the last Alaskan shared their story.

“I commend VA Secretary Shinseki for listening and hearing those voices from rural Alaska as well, and encourage all eligible Alaskans to work with the VA and the Alaska Native health system to ensure our veterans can get care as close to home as possible.

“Local care for rural Alaska veterans does not mean care in Anchorage. It means care close to home when it is available.”

The VA’s proposal comes after years of work by Senator Murkowski seeking to improve the options available to Alaska’s veterans.  An agreement could address longstanding concerns of rural Alaska veterans, who until now have been forced to seek care in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai or even Seattle at their own expense when quality medical attention is available nearby. Alaska Native health providers have long been concerned that they must subsidize care to rural veterans – which is the VA’s responsibility – from limited federal Indian Health Service funds.