Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)
December 16, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House passed by voice vote a comprehensive veterans’ legislative package, H.R. 7105, that included Rep. Gallego’s bill H.R. 4908, Native American Veteran Parity in Access to Care Today (PACT) Act. The package also includes provisions supported by Congressman Gallego to assist homeless veterans, improve women’s access to the VA, enhance benefits to veterans and their families, and help student veterans who’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
H.R. 4908 was first introduced by Rep. Gallego last year after an October 2019 hearing in which he called out the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for its unconstitutional practice of charging American Indian and Alaska Native veterans a copayment for receiving care at the VHA. The bipartisan measure would bring the VHA in line with the federal trust responsibility to Tribal Nations by prohibiting the VA from charging copays to Native veterans.
America’s trust and treaty obligations guarantee Native Americans access to health care free of cost and, accordingly, they are not charged copays at federally-funded Indian Health Service and Tribal health facilities. Despite this, Native veterans who seek care at the VHA are currently subject to these out-of-pocket costs.
Rep. Gallego made the following statement:
“As Chairman of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples and a veteran myself, I am deeply proud to have worked with my colleagues, Indian Country, and the VA to send this critical provision to the President’s desk.
“Native Americans have fought in every American conflict since the American Revolution – over a century before they were even granted citizenship. They also serve our country at higher rates than any other demographic group. It is long past time we kept our promises to them in return for their patriotic service and ensured that Native veterans have access to the health care they are owed both as veterans and as Native Americans.
“I urge the President to sign this policy and this package into law as soon as possible.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego serves as Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples. He is a Marine Corps combat veteran.