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VA Secretary Discusses Ways To Help Rural And Native Veterans

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Secretary Robert Wilkie of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is speaking about the rollout of a new law intended to improve veterans' access to medical care.

The MISSION Act, which went into effect in June, includes three major components: a new urgent care benefit for veterans, options for community-based care and financial support to families who are taking care of Vietnam veterans.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said it's part of putting the department's focus back on veterans. He said the new community-based care options will ideally help Wyoming and other rural veterans have more options and better access to care.

"Giving the veteran that option creates a holistic picture whereby that veteran can best serve his or her needs, and it's very clear to that veteran's family that there are options out there both within the VA and without," he said.

Wilkie said the VA also wants to do more to support Native American veterans since they serve in the military at higher rates than any other group. He said he wants to support those veterans both practically and spiritually.

"We are reaching out not only to the veterans themselves but to Indian Health to make sure our relationship is robust. We have expanded our budget for Native programs, and I'm very proud we have expanded our focus," Wilkie said.

He added he also wants to address mental health care access for veterans, and that suicide prevention is the department's number one clinical priority.

There are about 47,000 veterans in the state, which is about 10 percent of Wyoming's adult population. Most of the state's veterans served in the Vietnam era.

Wilkie said he will be visiting the VA facilities in Cheyenne and Sheridan in the coming weeks as a part of his goal of reaching more of the country's veterans directly.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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