ICYMI: House Veterans Affairs Committee Passes Reps. Gallego, Johnson, O’Halleran, Cole Bill to Support Native Veterans Attending Tribal Colleges and Universities
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the House Veterans Affairs Committee passed H.R. 2878, the Native VetSuccess at Tribal Colleges and Universities Pilot Program Act. The bipartisan bill was reintroduced last week by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) to connect Native veterans and their families to VA services and vocational support by expanding the VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) program to Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).
The VSOC program places VA counselors on campus to help Veterans, Servicemembers, and their qualified dependents complete their education and prepare them for future employment and success. VSOC currently provides services to thousands of veterans at 104 institutions of higher education across the country. The Native VetSuccess at Tribal Colleges and Universities Pilot Program Act will establish this innovative and successful model at Tribal Colleges and Universities in order to provide Native veterans:
- Adjustment counseling to help veterans complete education programs and ultimately secure employment
- Vocational testing services
- Educational and career counseling
- Expedited veteran readiness and employment (VR&E) services
- Referrals through VA Medical Centers, Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, or Vet Centers
“Native veterans fought for our country in every war since the American Revolution and serve in our armed forces at higher rates than any other group. However, they have the lowest utilization rate of VA services among veterans,” said Rep. Gallego, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “Today the Veterans Affairs Committee took an important step towards changing that by passing this bill to keep our promises to Native veterans no matter where they choose to receive higher education. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle to sign this bill into law.”
Rep. Johnson said: “Educational and career counseling programs are critical to the long-term success of our native veterans. There’s no reason the VetSuccess on Campus program shouldn’t include tribal colleges as well. Yesterday the Veterans Affairs Committee signed off on our bill, getting us one step closer to ensuring our Native veterans are able to take full advantage of the services they’ve earned.”
“Tribal Colleges and Universities serve students from more than 230 federally recognized tribes across 16 states, including Arizona, and provide essential education, job, and skills training programs grounded in unique cultural traditions and values,” said O’Halleran. “As the representative for Arizona’s First Congressional District, a vast and diverse area that includes 12 Indian Nations and Tribes, I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that Native American veterans have access to the highest quality education available; I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill that will aid veterans and servicemembers finishing their degrees and give them the tools they need to succeed afterwards.”
“Native Americans lead all racial and ethnic groups in terms of enlisting for military service and we must continue to provide them with access to the quality education they truly deserve,” said Rep. Cole, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. “By establishing a pilot program at Tribal Colleges and Universities, we can connect Native veterans to programs such as educational and career counseling, vocational testing and expedited veteran readiness and employment services. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation that will provide them with the tools critical to their success after their service.”
The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) endorsed the bill.