Native Americans serve in the military among the highest rate, per capita, compared to other groups and our nations honor the place of tribal warriors in our communities and our culture on a daily basis. But for Veterans living within or near tribal communities, it can sometimes be difficult to receive representation for benefit claims.Often, these Veterans cannot reach existing Veterans Service organizations (VSOs) or may not be using them due to cultural barriers.
One way VA has tried to help with this is through a rule change in the Code of Federal Regulations (38 CFR 14.628). This change will allow eligible tribal organizations to become accredited by VA. It is believed that accredited tribal organizations can provide Veterans with better, more culturally competent services.
Over the past year, VA’s Office of Tribal Government Relations (OTGR) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) have worked together to implement this rule change.
In March 2016, letters were sent to tribal leaders, asking for their input. A notice was then placed in the Federal Register (Vol. 81, No. 47: Proposed Rules page 12626) which also asked for comments and provided notice of tribal consultation. The comment period closed in April of 2016. In July 2016, a subsequent notice in the Federal Register (Vol. 81, No. 47: Proposed Rules Pages 47091-47093) provided the opportunity to comment on the revised proposed rule. This comment period closed in September of 2016.
There were more comments received from tribal leaders and Veteran advocates than was expected, showing a