Though Bass wants the VA to make many improvements, he believes Tester made the right call in questioning the credentials and experience of Ronny L. Jackson, whom President Donald Trump had tapped to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Montana lawmaker is the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He also sits on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and has served as its chair and vice chair. “When he says something about the VA, it has a little more credence with me,” Bass told the paper. “Someone like Tester knows the problem, and he’s on the level of the problem. The other guys are not on the same level.” Democrats, as well as some Republicans, were alarmed when colleagues accused Jackson of doling out prescription drugs without paperwork, among other alleged transgressions. But Tester, who is running for re-election, bore the brunt of Trump's criticism when the nominee dropped out of the running for the job. "Tester should resign," Trump said in one tweet after the debacle. David Shulkin, who had previously served in president Barack Obama's cabinet, on Twitter, just weeks after Shulkin addressed the National Congress of American Indians for the first time as the head of the department. "Native Americans have fought in every U.S. war," Shulkin told the organization during its winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 14, "but they don't often get the credit they deserve." "Veterans issues should not be political issues," Shulkin added. "Indian issues should not be political issues."
For this @washingtonpost series, I got to meet Sonny Bass, a US Navy veteran who volunteered to serve two combat tours in Vietnam. Montana has one of the highest rates of military service of any state in America (second only to Alaska) https://t.co/ARKl2wuTJx— Kathleen McLaughlin (@kemc) May 10, 2018
The department maintains an Office of Tribal Government Relations to deal with tribal veterans' issues and work with tribal governments. Key issues include a partnership with the Indian Health Service in which tribal veterans can seek care at IHS facilities closer to home rather than traveling father to VA ones. The VA reimburses the IHS for such services. Tribes also have been working with the VA to establish cemeteries for their fallen warriors. The program enables survivors to keep their loved ones closer to home instead of at VA cemeteries further away. Read More on the Story:
Who should lead Veterans Affairs? Five veterans explain what they’re looking for in a leader. (The Washington Post May 20, 2018) Related Stories:
Trump's pick to lead Department of Veterans Affairs withdraws amid doubts (April 26, 2018)