WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) delivered the following remarks at a committee hearing to receive testimony on the following bills:
· S. 2417, to amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to allow the Indian Health Service to cover the cost of a copayment of an Indian or Alaska Native veteran receiving medical care or services from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes;
· S. 2842, a bill to amend and reform the Johnson-O’Malley Act to award contracts to certain tribal organizations, Indian corporations, school districts, States, and consortia of tribal organizations, and for other purposes.
The hearing featured testimony from Mr. Michael S. Black, director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Honorable Roger Trudell, chairman of the Santee Sioux Nation; and Ms. Carla Mann, president of the National Johnson-O’Malley Association from Fort Washakie, Wyo.
Click here for more information on the witnesses’ testimony and to watch video of the entire hearing.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today the Committee is going to examine two bills: S. 2417, the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act; and S. 2842, the Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act.
“These bills address specific concerns regarding health care and education for American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
“Last December, Senators Thune and Rounds introduced S. 2417, the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act.
“This bill amends the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to allow the Indian Health Service, upon referral, to cover the cost of copayments for an American Indian or Alaska Native veteran receiving medical care or services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“As many of us here know, American Indians and Alaskan Natives have served in the armed forces in a greater number per capita number than any other ethnic group.
“S. 2417 requires the Indian Health Service and the Department of Veteran Affairs to, if feasible, enter into a memorandum of understanding to provide clarity for how this payment system will be executed.
“Unnecessary agency red tape and bureaucracy should not stand in the way of helping our veterans.
“On April 21, 2016, Senator Heitkamp, along with Senators Daines and Lankford, introduced S. 2842, the Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act.
“The Johnson-O’Malley Act authorized the Johnson-O’Malley program to allow for the Bureau of Indian Education to contract for the education of eligible Indian and Alaskan Native students enrolled in public schools.
“More than 90 percent of Indian and Alaskan Native students attend public schools in the country.
“The various programs offered to American Indian and Alaska Native students through the Johnson-O’Malley program relate to academics, culture, dropout prevention, and language.
“Therefore, this bill would amend the Johnson-O’Malley Act to direct the secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Bureau of Indian Education, to take measures in ensuring full participation of all eligible Indian and Native Alaskan students in a Johnson-O’Malley program.
“This bill would require the secretary of the Interior to provide a more accurate student count of Indian students utilizing existing data, considering the last official count that was verified by the Bureau of Indian Education occurred more than twenty years ago, that was in 1995.
“Without an accurate student count, it is difficult to determine the need for these Johnson-O’Malley programs and the benefit this program provides.
“Today, we have Ms. Carla Mann from my home state of Wyoming to give testimony on S. 2842. She is from Fort Washakie, Wyoming, located on the Wind River Reservation, and has testified before this committee on similar issues in the past. Welcome back. I want to thank you, Ms. Mann, for your tireless work on these issues and representing Wyoming proudly.”