Addressing Access To Health Care For Veterans In Alaska

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Health Care ForVeterans


AlaskaNative veterans living in rural areas of the state have poor access to Veterans Administration health care, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said on Friday at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on health care in Anchorage, Alaska,the Anchorage Daily News reports. According to Murkowski, Alaska Nativesand American Indians combined have the highest rate of military service of anygroup of U.S.residents.

There are about 6,000 Alaska Native veterans in the state, and most of themlive in areas not accessible by roads, along with about one-quarter of allAlaskan veterans, according to the Daily News. VA clinics arelocated in Anchorage, Fairbanksand Kenai, but there are no clinics in western Alaska.

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Alaska Army National Guard 1st Sgt. John Flynn at the hearing said someveterans who live in remote areas spend as much as $1,000 to fly from theirvillages to Anchorageto receive a checkup. Nelson Angapak, vice president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, said, "The VA has absolutelyno presence in rural Alaska.Absolutely none."

Alexander Spector, director of the Alaska VA HealthCare System, saidthe agency is working to improve access and recently signed a memo ofunderstanding with the state to ensure "seamless delivery of health careservices to rural veterans" in Alaska,including the creation of mobile outreach teams. In addition, more money hasbeen allocated to pay the travel expenses of veterans who live beyond the roadsystem, Spector said. Such payments currently are offered only to veterans withdisabilities who have annual incomes less than $12,000, according to the DailyNews.

Valerie Davidson, a director of the Alaska NativeTribal Health Consortium, said it would be more cost efficient for VA to develop a way ofcompensating Indian Health Services for health care veterans receive at the 180 small village healthcenters or rural hub clinics around the state. Murkowski agreed that it wouldbe "prudent" for VA and the tribal health services to combine theirefforts and advised Spector to facilitate such a partnership (Bryson, AnchorageDaily News, 12/1).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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