NVTI ARTICLE Series: JVSG Companion Programs

Department of Labor (DOL) and Veterans Administration (VA) Resources Supporting American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) Veterans

State Workforce Agency (SWA) personnel performing under the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Jobs for Veterans State Grant (JVSG) program may serve American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) veterans and need to be aware of both DOL and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiatives and resources that support this special population. AIAN veterans face traditional significant barriers to employment (SBE) and live in rural areas where they encounter poverty, lack of direct healthcare, reduced economic growth, and limited access to supportive resources, transportation, and connectivity.

In this tenth article of the JVSG Companion Program Series, we will examine DOL and VA programs that are designed to support tribal nations. Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists and JVSG personnel should acquaint themselves with federal agency resources available to SWAs and integrate these services into American Job Center (AJC) assets serving AIAN veterans.

DOL AIAN-focused programs

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Division of Indian and Native American Programs (DINAP) Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Section 166 grants support AIAN economic development and self-sufficiency, employment, and training activities in order to:

  • Fully develop academic, occupational, and literacy skills
  • Assist with making individuals more competitive in the workforce
  • Promote economic and social development in accordance with the goals and values of tribal communities

These projects are administered in ways that are consistent with the traditional cultural values and beliefs of the Native Americans they are designed to serve. To gain more information about this program, use the DINAP Staff Directory to network with ETA specialists at your regional or local levels.

In addition to DINAP, DOL VETS is seeking ways to provide services through the established protocols that currently exist between the states and the tribes, and to promote new mutual pathways between states and tribes while honoring their sovereign status. As provided under VPL 05-15, SWAs may apply for Special Initiative (SI) funding to facilitate outreach and employment services to AIAN veterans living on tribal lands. These requests must be submitted separately from their Annual JVSG Program Funding Requests as a grant modification; SI awards can only be granted to states and territories, and not directly to tribal entities. Questions from states may be addressed to their Directors and Regional Administrators for Veterans’ Employment and Training, who in turn will consult with state agencies and provide technical assistance for these requests.

Lastly, the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP’s) Indian and Native American Employment Rights Program (INAERP) advances awareness of employment rights and job opportunities for AIAN veterans who work for or seek employment with companies doing business with the federal government. INAERP accomplishes this mission through compliance assistance and outreach to federal contractors and coordination with tribal representatives, community-based organizations, apprenticeship programs, workforce development agencies, and other federal stakeholders. Through this program, OFCCP has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Council for Tribal Employment Rights to work together in conducting outreach, education, and technical assistance activities that promote the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of AIAN veterans.

VA AIAN-focused programs

AIAN veterans are the most underserved veteran population within the VA. They have a higher rate of military service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups. Often because of their warrior traditions, they seek combat duty, yet they are the least likely to seek out assistance from VA. This is a major reason why the need for VA services like medical care, disability compensation, and post-traumatic symptoms counseling is so great among this special population.

In order to accomplish this goal, the VA’s Office of Tribal Government Relations (OTGR) team works to strengthen and build closer relations between the VA, tribal governments, and other key federal, state, private, and non-profit partners in an effort to enhance access to services and benefits by AIAN veterans and their families. Their efforts focus on three important goals:

  1. Facilitating VA’s Tribal Consultation Policy.
  2. Facilitating increased access to healthcare.
  3. Promoting economic sustainability by highlighting opportunities for AIAN veterans to access fiscal, educational, housing, and other special programs and benefits through the VA.

OTGR sponsors regional training sessions for tribal leaders, veteran service organizations, and tribal organizations to increase veteran access to VA healthcare and benefits through informative presentations and interactive discussions. Additionally, the Tribal Veterans Representative (TVR) program provides specialized training to tribal members or others interested in assisting AIAN veterans in a tribal community. Comprised mostly of volunteers, these individuals are appointed and supported by the tribes and then participate in training provided by the Office of Rural Health (ORH) within the VA. TVRs work closely with tribal veterans, community organizations, and local VA offices to support veterans in their communities. Community partnership is increasingly recognized within the VA as an important component to bridge gaps among tribal, county, state, and federal services.

The VA’s Native Domain of the Veterans Rural Health Resource Center (VRHRC) assists with providing VA facilities, tribes, or organizations working with AIAN veterans with information, resources, and technical assistance on demographics, healthcare services, and utilization. VRHRCs are ORH field-based satellite offices that serve as hubs of rural healthcare and are located at host VA medical centers in Iowa City, Iowa; Salt Lake City, Utah; White River Junction, Vermont; Gainesville, Florida; and Portland, Oregon.

In the last article of this series for 2021, we will feature Department of Interior resources for our AIAN veterans, which complement the federal assets discussed in this article.