STATEMENT BY LUCRETIA M. MCCLENNEY
DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MINORITY VETERANS
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISABILITY ASSISTANCE AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS OF THE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
July 12, 2007
Chairman Hall, Chairman Michaud, and members of the Subcommittees, I appreciate the opportunity to come before you today to discuss the mission of the Center for Minority Veterans and address your specific questions on the Department of Veterans Affairs ( VA) service to minority veterans through its current programs; present and future strategies addressing the needs of this growing population; and outreach efforts being conducted by VA to minority veterans.
Center for Minority Veterans
The Center for Minority Veterans was created by Public Law 103-446, in November 1994. The Director of the Center serves as primary advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs on all issues related to minority veterans.
The mission of the Center for Minority Veterans includes serving in an advisory role to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on the adoption and implementation of policies and programs affecting veterans who are minorities; making recommendations to senior VA officials for the establishment or improvement of programs; promoting minority veterans' use of benefits; analyzing and e VAluating complaints made by or on behalf of minority veterans; and consulting with, and providing assistance and information to external local, state and federal stakeholders.
Who We Serve
The Center serves all veterans regardless of race or ethnicity, but pursuant to Public Law 103-446, the Center's primary emphasis is on minority veterans. Specifically, veterans who are: African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, or Native Americans, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
How is the Department of Veterans Affairs ( VA) serving minority veterans through its current programs?
Minority Veterans Program Coordinators (MVPC)
To establish a national presence and to ensure issues are addressed at the local level, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 1995 directed the appointment of Minority Veterans Program Coordinators ( MVPCs) at each VA Health Care Facility, Regional Benefits Office and National Cemetery. There are approximately 300 MVPCs across the Nation. The Center provides training to MVPCs in cultural competency and outreach strategies. These coordinators educate and sensitize facility personnel to the needs of minority veterans in the community and promote the use of VA benefits, programs and services by minority veterans. In addition, the Veterans Health Administration ( VHA), Veterans Benefits Administration ( VBA) and National Cemeteries Administration ( NCA) each have designated a Central Office MVPC Liaison. The Center staff meets monthly with these liaisons and quarterly with the senior leadership of each Administration to discuss outreach activities, issues and concerns that impact minority veterans.
The Center has converted the coordinators' annual written report to a quarterly web based report to provide greater visibility on their outreach efforts, identify opportunities for improvement, benchmark best practices and recognize the Minority Veterans Program Coordinator of the Quarter and Year for each Administration.
Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans
The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans was also established under Public Law 103-446. The Committee is composed of veterans of all ranks and services appointed by the Secretary. Members represent the five minority groups the Center is mandated to oversee. The Committee advises the Secretary and Congress on VA's administration of benefits and provision of health care to minority veterans; assessing the needs of minority veterans, reviewing VA programs and activities designed to meet those needs and developing recommendations to address unmet needs.
The Committee submits an annual report to the Secretary incorporating its findings and recommendations. In order to assess the delivery of health care services and benefits, the Committee conducts two meetings annually (one site visit and one business meeting). During the site visits the Committee tours VA facilities (of all three Administrations), meets with senior officials to discuss services and programs a VAilable for minority veterans, and conducts Town Hall meetings for local veterans and the community to hear firsthand their concerns and/or issues. The Committee meets once annually at VA Central Office ( VACO) and receives briefings from VHA, VBA and NCA and other staff offices. These briefings provide the Advisory Committee an update on current VA policies and programs and afford them the opportunity to discuss their findings and concerns impacting minority veterans.
What are the present and future needs of this growing population and what strategies does VA have for meeting them?
Needs of Minority Veterans:
In many instances, any challenges that minority veterans encounter as they seek services from VA are magnified by the adverse conditions in their local communities. These challenges may include access to VA medical facilities (especially for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders, and other veterans residing in rural, remote or urban areas), disparities in health care centered on diseases and illnesses that disproportionately effect minorities, homelessness, unemployment, lack of clear understanding of VA claims processing and benefit programs, limited medical research and limited statistical data related to minority veterans.
Cultural competency and diversity training assist VA employees when serving our very diverse minority veteran population.
VA Strategies to Meet the Needs of Minority Veterans include but are not limited to the following:
What outreach efforts are being conducted by VA to minorities?
The Center for Minority Veterans has staff who serve as veteran liaisons for each of the five minority groups: African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and American Indians and serve as consultants to the Minority Veterans Program Coordinators. They establish partnerships with Veterans Service Organizations as well as internal and external stakeholders to increase awareness of minority veteran issues and develop collaborative strategies to address unmet needs. The Center has active partnerships with VA's Center for Veterans Enterprise, National Veterans Employment Program, Women Veterans Health Program, and Health and Human Services' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services who are active participants in our community outreach efforts and presenters in our biennial training conferences.
Other active partnerships with minority organizations include, but are not limited to:
African Americans - Congressional Black Caucus, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and The National Urban League
Hispanics/Latinos - American GI Forum and League of United Latin American Citizens
Native American - National Congress of American Indians, United South and Eastern Tribes, Na VAjo Nation Washington Office, and the White House Indian Affairs Working Group
Asian/Pacific Islanders - Japanese American Veterans Association and Federal Asian Pacific Americans Council
VA is most appreciative of the outstanding accomplishments of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans and the Minority Veterans Program Coordinators because their outreach activities and reports are critical in helping VA assess and address the needs of minority veterans.
This concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.