Guest Column: FY 2022 budget fully funds veterans, criminal investigations, others
By Jonathan Nez
Recently, the Navajo Nation’s fiscal year 2022 comprehensive budget was signed into law through Resolution CS-49-21, which includes full funding for veterans, Department of Criminal Investigations, prosecutors, new vans to deliver meals and provide transportation for Navajo elders, and many more direct services for our youth, elders and community needs. The new budget took effect on Oct. 1, 2021.
Several budget items have come into question recently including funding for veterans’ benefits and the Department of Criminal Investigations. Unfortunately, incomplete information was shared with the veterans and the Navajo people.
To be very clear, all of the funding originally requested for our veterans and Criminal Investigations was approved in the comprehensive budget.
As of Oct. 1, the Department of Criminal Investigations received over $10 million from General Funds and external funds combined and carryover funding from FY 2021 that is estimated to be over $1 million.
To minimize confusion, we issued a press release the day that the budget was signed into law explaining that the line-item veto authority was used for $881,000 for the Department of Criminal Investigations because the department was already set to receive the $1 million in additional carryover funding.
In other words, the department would have had the necessary funds under the approved budget. If there is a need for additional funding down the road, we will work with the Council to address and fund those needs.
As for funding for Navajo veterans, full funding was approved. Not a single dollar or penny was line-item vetoed.
We recognize that there are differing opinions among veterans as to whether the funds for benefits that help our veterans should be allocated under the Navajo Veterans Administration or the chapter veterans’ organizations (CVOs). The current budget allocates the funds under the Navajo Veterans Administration.
However, if the majority of veterans want the funds to be reallocated under the chapter veterans’ organizations to administer, then we will support that through an amendment to the comprehensive budget resolution, which will be subject to a vote of the Navajo Nation Council. Clearly, the decision lies with the veterans to determine the preferred path of funding.
As for the policies for financial assistance from the Navajo Nation’s Veterans Trust Fund, Vice President Myron Lizer and I met with veterans on several occasions to hear their concerns and to work toward solutions that help make the process easier. One example is the requirement for veterans to submit receipts for the assistance they receive.
Many veterans shared their concerns and frustration with this process. We proposed to simply have the person provide a signature certifying that the funds were used for the intended purposes. If a veteran submits a request for assistance, we should make the process as simple as possible, while ensuring accountability of Navajo funds.
In regards to veterans housing, the Navajo Veterans Administration successfully advocated for changes to the Veterans Housing Program policies that were needed to advance the program. Again, accountability of Navajo funds is paramount to the new veterans’ housing policies.
The necessary amendments to the veterans housing policy were approved two weeks ago by the Health, Education and Human Services Committee to allow the construction of homes to move forward. We will soon begin producing quality homes for veterans.
We have the utmost respect for all veterans, our warriors who served this country and the Navajo Nation with remarkable courage and conviction. As we continue to work through the policy issues that hinder progress at times, we all must remember that we are five-fingered beings, and despite our struggles, we want the best for our Navajo people.
Yes, there are challenges and frustrations along the way, but we are fully committed to working together, creating the changes that are needed, and moving forward. Ahe’hee’