WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 27, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — Representative Ann Kirkpatrick has been working hard to ensure Native American Veterans are not disadvantaged because of their service, and she is pushing to address another way that they are being treated unfairly by the federal government. In a letter to Interior Department Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk, she called on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to fix a serious flaw with the Housing Improvement Program (HIP) that allows disabled Native Veterans and survivor families to be denied support.
Under current HIP regulations, Veterans disability and survivor benefits are treated the same as income. This means getting those benefits can push Native Veterans and their families above the program’s income limit, making them ineligible for housing assistance they need.
The San Carlos Apache Housing Authority first brought this challenge to the Congresswoman’s attention, and she has been working with them to do the right thing for Indian men and women in uniform. She has found that BIA can effectively fix the problem on their own by re-writing the definition of income to explicitly exclude Veterans disability and survivor benefits, and she is demanding they do so immediately.
“Native American Veterans should not have to struggle to keep a roof over their heads because they fought for their country,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “They have earned their benefits with blood and sacrifice – and right now, they are being punished for receiving them. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has to live up to its responsibilities and provide justice for our fighting men and women.”
Rep. Kirkpatrick had previously introduced and passed through the House H.R. 3553, which addresses a similar defect with the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA). She brought a delegation from Washington to Window Rock for a field hearing on that legislation on April 10, and she will be fighting to make sure the voices of Indian Country are also heard with regards to the flaw in HIP.
“Native Americans have contributed so much in service to this Nation, and many of them are putting their lives on the line in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. The federal government has let them down on this issue, and they deserve better,” said Rep. Kirkpatrick. “We need to make this right wherever Native American Veterans are facing these obstacles, and I am going to make sure their stories are told.”
As the daughter and niece of Veterans, Rep. Kirkpatrick has been pushing to make Washington keep its promises to America’s heroes. She has also been a champion for Indian Country in representing the largest Native American population of any congressional district in the United States, and meeting the unique needs of Veterans living on tribal lands has naturally been a particular focus. In addition to these efforts, she has introduced the Rural American Indian Veterans Health Care Improvement Act to make it easier for them to access quality health care options.