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Veterans Trust Fund changes move to Law and Order

WINDOW ROCK

On Tuesday, the Budget and Finance Committee approved a bill (No. 0024-22) to amend the Veterans Trust Fund to require the creation of separate business unit numbers whenever funds are awarded to local veterans’ organizations.

The trust fund was established to provide funding for programs, projects, and services or activities for Navajo veterans.

During the fiscal year 2022 comprehensive budget discussion, the bill states that confusion arose regarding allocation of funds for chapter organizations.

“Some funds were allocated in a single business unit for various local chapter veterans’ organizations,” the bill said. “This use of a single business unit number has concerned local chapter veterans’ organizations because with this procedure there is no way to determine the amount of funds allocated for each of their respective organizations.”

Due to this confusion, the bill urges clarity and transparency to Navajo veterans and requests the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration create individual business unit codes during the budgeting process for each of the chapter organizations.

“The current Veterans’ Advisory Council, they provided their input and recommendation,” Delegate and sponsor of the bill Kee Allen Begay said during the BFC’s regular meeting.

Along with the advisory council, Begay said he has met with and spoke to several agency veterans’ organizations along with local chapter organizations.

“I’m trying to do my best to provide this information (the bill) through the media for them (veterans) to have a full understanding,” he said.

With this bill, Begay hopes a certain amount of funds will be put into each of the 110-chapter local veterans’ organizations so it is immediately in their hands.

In the bill’s attachments, supporting comments include the Eastern Navajo Veterans’ Organization which called this past fiscal year “a total disaster.”

Eastern’s comment said the entire organization’s trust fund was depleted in two months and many veterans did not receive assistance because of the way requests were processed.

“Some local veterans’ organization may want to keep these funding to certain amount for certain purpose for certain years,” Begay said. “A lot of the time, local veterans’ organizations are being told, especially toward the end of the fiscal year, to spend their funding.

“But what I hear sometimes is that, ‘OK, can we be able to have these fundings carried over automatically into the next fiscal year?’” he said. “So that way, we don’t want to be in the position just to deplete the funding at the end of the fiscal year and then start a new one.’”

Begay said this will allow the organizations to carry over their funds without going before Council. He also believes that this will help local veterans’ organizations manage their funding especially towards the end of the year.

“A veterans’ trust fund is a veterans’ trust fund so when it gets to the chapter level to the veterans’ organizations, I mean to me that’s what it’s intended for,” Begay said.

While a majority of the comments for the bill were in support, there was one opposing comment from a veteran in the Eastern Agency.

This vet, Marie Zweirlein, the wife of Navajo VA Director Jim Zweirlein, said Kee Allen Begay does not have “absolute consensus from the entire Navajo veterans organizations.”

The comment also spoke about Budget and Finance’s past questions about trust fund carryovers.

The bill moves on to the Law and Order Committee with the vote of 4-0. If passed in Law and Order, it will move to the Naabik’iyati’ Committee then the Navajo Nation Council.

Information: No. 0024-22 can be found at dibb.nnols.org


About The Author

Hannah John

Hannah John is from Coyote Canyon, N.M., and currently based out of Gallup as a reporter for the Navajo Times. She is Bit’ah’nii (Within His Cover), born for Honágháahnii (One Who Walks Around), maternal grandfather is Tábaahí (Water Edge) and paternal grandfather is Tódich’ii’nii (Bitter Water). She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s in communications and a minor in Native American studies. She recently worked with the Daily Lobo and the Rio Grande Sun.

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