Many Native Americans have served in the U.S. military, and continue to do so in large numbers. However, upon their return from duty, most of them don't receive the benefits they're entitled to.
On Sept. 22, the Coalition of American Indian Veterans, is hosting the 7th annual Gathering of American Indian Veterans. The event aims to teach Native American veterans about the benefits they have earned, and how to ensure them.
The coalition is composed of various organizations, such as Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, Indian Health Service and the Tucson Indian Center.
More than two million people serve in the military, of which 31,000 are Native Americans and Alaskan natives, said Pepé Mendoza, public affairs specialist for the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System.
"We (Coalition of American Indian Veterans) have a joint venture, which is one of the few in the nation," Mendoza said. "(We) get together to (inform) Native American veterans, and their families, about the benefits they might have in Indian Health Service or Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. We have representatives (at the event) to let them know about benefits they may not know about."
Many Native American veterans are not active with their benefits, because they tend to go back to their reservations. This is one of the biggest reasons there is a high demand for outreach services, such as the gathering this month, explained George Bearpaw, acting area director for Tucson Area Indian Health Services.
At the event, representatives from veteran and non-veteran organizations will be available to provide health screenings, wellness education, and information about other health and social services. Bearpaw said that there is also going to be more than 45 booths to educating Native American veterans on such benefits.
“It is going to be a potpourri of information, not only on the VA side but also with Indian Health Care Services,” he said.
The 7th annual Gathering of American Indian Veterans will take place at the Casino Del Sol Conference Center located on 5655 W. Valencia Rd. from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 629-1819.