Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Reimbursement Agreements Benefit Tribes, Veterans
As part of an initiative to increase access to health care for Native American Veterans, the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center (JCMVAMC) has signed reimbursement agreements with 28 tribal facilities and four Indian Health Service facilities in Eastern Oklahoma since July 2012.
The agreements include: Muscogee Creek Nation, Choctaw Nation, Pawnee Indian Health Service, Pawhuska Indian Health Service, Claremore Indian Health Service, Northeastern Tribal Health System, Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Care Resources of Tulsa.
Through funding from the VA Office of Rural Health, VA will reimburse tribes when Native American Veterans use their facilities for their health care. The agreements also allow VA and the tribes to coordinate the care of Veterans by sharing patient information.
However, Veterans must first enroll for VA health care.
“We are excited to partner with the tribes to provide health care to our American Indian Veterans,” said James Floyd, JCMVAMC Director. “The reimbursement agreements will allow for better coordination of care, allows tribes and the Indian Health Service to expand care for their patients, shortens wait times for medical care, and increases access at VA facilities for all Veterans.”
If the Veteran needs treatment or care that is not offered through the tribe, the Veteran will also have the option of using VA for their care.
“The Veteran does not have to come to VA for health care,” said Bunner Gray, JCMVAMC Native American Coordinator. “However, if VA offers a service that the tribe does not, then the Veteran at least has the option of coming to VA if they are enrolled. The main key is providing access to care for those Native American Veterans who live in a rural community.”
VA Outreach Educates Native American Veterans
The only state with more Native American Veterans than Oklahoma is California. The Sooner state has approximately 14,400 Native American Veterans, which consists of 9.3 percent of the state’s population.
In Eastern Oklahoma, approximately 1,600 Native American Veterans are enrolled for health care through JCMVAMC.
To educate Native American Veterans about VA benefits, as well as the reimbursement agreements, JCMVAMC has conducted more than 40 outreach events at tribal health facilities and has enrolled more than 230 Native American Veterans for VA health care in the past six months.
On Aug. 15, VA staff visited the Cherokee Nation Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and enrolled 10 Native American Veterans for VA health care.
Navy Veteran Larry Sprague, a Cherokee Native American who receives his health care at Three Rivers Health Center, drove from Broken Arrow, Okla. to enroll after learning about the VA outreach event.
“We’re getting to the age where he needs more medical attention,” said Sue Sprague, his wife. “He’s had some help from the Cherokee Nation which has been great. But then we started getting some phone calls about these (outreach events) with the VA and we thought, well, if he can get some help from the VA too, that’s great.”