Veterans Affairs’ Office of Tribal Government Relations Adds Regional Specialists >>

August 15th, 2011

Veterans Affairs’ Office of Tribal Government Relations Adds Regional Specialists

Stephanie Birdwell, Director of the Office of Tribal Government Relations (OTGR), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), recently hired field staff to serve as regional liaisons between tribes and the VA across the country. The OTGR Regional Tribal Government Relations Specialists are scheduled to start today on Monday, August 15, 2011, and will advise the VA on policies affecting tribes and to coordinate tribal consultation for the VA. The staff will facilitate communication between the VA and tribes regionally and will serve as the VA’s liaisons with tribal nations and the associations that serve them. The recent additions to the OTGR team include Mr. Peter Vicaire, Mr. Thomas Bird Bear, and Ms. Terry Bentley.

Peter Vicaire is a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation and will serve tribes located in the Great Lakes and Great Plains regions of the country. Vicaire will be the contact person and liaison based out of Minneapolis, MN, for tribes located in the states of Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Thomas Bird Bear is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota and will serve tribes located in the Southwest region. Bird Bear will be the contact person and liaison based out of Albuquerque, NM, for tribes located in the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

Terry Bentley is a member of the Karuk Tribe in California and will serve tribes located along the West Coast and Northwest region. Bentley will be the contact person and liaison based out of Roseburg, OR, for tribes located in the states of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Bentley will also assist with some Native villages in Alaska.

Stephanie Birdwell, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, will work with Ms. Erika Moott to serve tribes located in the South and Eastern regions of the country. Birdwell and Moott will be the contacts based in the Washington, DC, area for tribes located in states from Maine to Texas.

Some of the responsibilities of the Regional Tribal Government Relations Specialists include:

  1. managing a portfolio of relationships with tribes within a specific region;
  2. developing relationships with tribal leaders, federal and state VA personnel, and partnership agencies to enhance the working relationships between the VA and tribes;
  3. serving as a resource to tribes seeking to engage in productive relationships with the VA; and
  4. serving as a resource to the VA in developing productive, positive relationships with tribes.

The focus of the activities for the specialists will be building relationships with federal, tribal, state agencies and other stakeholder entities (veterans service organizations for example) to facilitate increased access to health care (including implementing the MOU between VA and the Indian Health Service), promoting economic sustainability (such as outreach on post 9/11 GI bill opportunities, Native American Direct Home Loans, technical assistance sessions focusing on housing options for the homeless, increasing veteran employment within federal agencies, and promoting veteran-owned small business and entrepreneurship opportunities), and working on implementing the VA consultation policy by facilitating up to 5 formal consultation sessions in FY12 in addition to listening sessions with tribal leaders and veterans groups in Indian country.

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