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Tester Stresses Importance Of Bill For Veterans

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., stressed the importance of passing the Native American Director Loan Improvement Act during a committee hearing regarding access to health care and benefits for Native American veterans on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

The Native American Direct Loan Improvement Act would reform the Native American Direct Loan program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs and improve the marketing of the program - making it more accessible to Native American veterans living on trust land.

The bill would allow Native American veterans to use the NADL program to refinance any other existing mortgage on the same property, and create a relending program to allow Native Community Development Financial Institutions to obtain loans through the NADL program and relend those funds to qualified Native American veterans.

During the hearing, Tester said the bill would fix a lot of problems. The bill has been through committee.

Tester led his Committee colleagues in successfully securing several measures as part of a comprehensive end-of-year bill to allow Native veterans to gain easier access to VA care and benefits.

This included two provisions to eliminate copayments for Native veterans accessing VA health care and establish a VA Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs, which were signed into law January 2021.

“I’m disappointed VA hasn’t implemented the law we passed two years ago to end copays for VA health care for Native veterans,” Tester said during the hearing.

He added, “This creates a disincentive for Native veterans to use VA health care facilities, which is the opposite of what should be occurring. Dr. Upton, is VA on track to implement the copay prohibition by the end of next month?”

VA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Health Dr. Upton answered, “We absolutely understand the urgency and importance of this…the Secretary has shared publically that we’re going to have this done at the end of the year…we are actively working the operational and regulation-associated pieces to meet that goal.”

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