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Message from the Director - February Veteran Voices


David Puente

The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) recently had the privilege of attending the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians veterans committee meeting. This gathering provided an opportunity for me to introduce myself and share my experience as a veteran and with the agency. I also discussed WDVA's updated strategic plan including our efforts to expand the number of veteran service officers in our network, including tribal veteran service officers, and the agency's commitment to supporting Native American veterans and their families.

As we strive to meet our goals, strategies, and objectives around Saving & Transforming Lives, and Being the Leading State in Veteran Service Delivery & Outcomes, we know more Native American Veterans will be connected with the benefits they earned by serving in the military.

During the meeting, Steven Gill, Veterans Services Administrator and Tribal Liaison, presented WDVA’s ability to enter into memorandums of agreement with federally recognized Indian tribes. These agreements aim to provide in-kind support for tribal veteran’s representatives and tribal veterans service officers. The support includes training and accreditation for veteran service officers, technical assistance and systems access, assistance with representing appeals for VA disability claims, and collaboration on referrals for veterans who may benefit from WDVA's programs and services.

It is important to honor all veterans for their selfless service and sacrifice. It is equally important to acknowledge that many Native American veterans face additional barriers when it comes to accessing the services they need, which may include living in more rural areas of the state. That is why WDVA is working diligently to ensure all veterans have equitable access to the care they have earned.

WDVA collaborates with tribal veterans representatives and tribal veterans service officers to improve access to veterans’ benefits for Native American veterans and their families by providing culturally competent services in Native American communities. This supports WDVA strategic goal to be the leading state in veteran service delivery & outcomes by increasing the percentage of veterans connected to their earned benefits.