Monday, January 20, 2020

Female Native American Veterans Struggle For Same Treatments Male Veterans Receive

Native American veterans still struggling to get the health care they were promised


Cronkite News
By Madeline Ackley
Jan 19, 2020
“It was very hard to get into,” Barnes-Saucedo said of the VA system. “Since I was freshly out of the military, I still had a hard time getting into a clinic down in the Phoenix VA.”

Vanissa Barnes-Saucedo said she hasn't received the same respect and resources as fellow Hopi veterans who are male. She is one of an estimated 133,899 Native American Veterans. Madeline Ackley Photo Cronkite News

KYKOTSMOVI — Vanissa Barnes-Saucedo was 21 when military recruiters stopped her in a shopping mall, waving enlistment papers in front of her. Although she says she wasn’t entirely sure what she was getting herself into, she signed the papers anyway.

For the next six years, Barnes-Saucedo was stationed around the world: Virginia, Colorado, South Korea, Kuwait and Iraq. However, by the time she was honorably discharged in 2014, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

When she returned home to northeastern Arizona, Barnes-Saucedo had difficulty navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs — the government agency in charge of veterans’ health care. She’s Hopi, born and raised on her tribe’s ancestral lands. The nearest full-service VA center, in Flagstaff, is a two hour drive; the VA campus in Phoenix is a four hour trip.

“It was very hard to get into,” Barnes-Saucedo said of the VA system. “Since I was freshly out of the military, I still had a hard time getting into a clinic down in the Phoenix VA.”

Although she didn’t mind making the trip, she said she was bothered by the treatment she received there.

“They made me feel like . . . I was making up some of the issues I was having,” she said. Barnes-Saucedo also wanted to make in-person doctor appointments but felt pressured by staff members to use the telemedicine service instead.

“I felt helpless . . . It was difficult,” she said. Eventually, she decided to go to her local Indian Health Service center, a government-run agency tasked with caring for Native populations.
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