Many Navajo veterans are missing out on benefits. This group wants to help
The U.S. military has veterans all over the country. But some have trouble connecting, or even knowing about benefits and services that are available to them.
One vet’s organization says this is especially true for veterans on the rural Navajo Nation, where there are about 14,000 vets.
The Diné Naazbaa Partnership — or the DNP — is a nonprofit that educates Navajo vets and connects them with existing resources.
Bernie Tyler, a Navajo veteran herself, is program lead for the group. She travels around the reservation to meet with veterans.
“The first step is really important that we engage veterans. So I go out to a lot of veteran’s meetings, veteran collaboration meetings, events that will connect me to veterans, and then after that I start educating them on resources," Tyler said.
The DNP says it has assisted hundreds of vets, their families and caretakers — successfully coordinating care for more than 600.
“Some of us still don’t have electricity, some of us still don’t have running water, transportation for that matter, or even a cell phone to connect us to the next veteran’s meeting," Tyler said.
She also says the needs vary from veteran to veteran.
“Some of them come out of the service and they don’t know what to do next in their life. Nor do they know what benefits are owed to them. They don’t do that research; we are very enclosed," Tyler said.
The DNP does not have direct partnerships with the U.S. or Navajo governments. This organization is a branch of America’s Warrior Partnership, which, according to its website, partners with communities to help prevent veteran suicide.
Separately, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez is pushing to get an outreach center and veterans hospital there.
Also, the Navajo Nation Council has allocated $50 million of CARES Act funds to go towards veteran housing.
Some of the oldest Navajo veterans are members of the famous World War Two military unit: the Code Talkers. A day of remembrance and celebration is set for Aug. 14.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 (en Español: 988, prensa 2; for the deaf or hard of hearing, use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.