Vol. LIV No. 4
April 2019

Chickasaw veterans to enjoy enhanced benefits

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – The Chickasaw Nation is training employees as “veterans’ advocates,” expanding hours of operation at the Chickasaw Veterans Lodge and extending hiring preferences to veterans.

Governor Bill Anoatubby announced the initiatives during the Fourth Annual Chickasaw Veterans Conference. Approximately 1,200 veterans and others attended the conference June 20 at WinStar World Casinos in Thackerville.

The tribe, Gov. Anoatubby said, was dedicated to providing the highest quality services to its warriors.

The Chickasaw Nation has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs to assist Chickasaw veterans.

The memorandum, coupled with federal legislation, allows Chickasaw Nation staff to file veterans’ claims, appeals and follow the claims process thoroughly on behalf of veterans. Previously, laws required veterans handle claims themselves.

Under the new agreement, the tribe may perform these tasks for veterans.

“To take full advantage of this new legislation, we currently have veterans’ advocates in the process of becoming accredited as veterans’ service officers,” Gov. Anoatubby said.

Gov. Anoatubby also announced the Chickasaw Nation Veterans Lodge would expand its hours of operation Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The new hours take effect July 7.

The lodge, on the South Ada Campus near the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, was dedicated in October 2017.

“This lodge is a place where people can gather and talk to each other, where you can enjoy comradery with your fellow veterans and brothers in arms, he told the veterans at the conference.

“It is a place where you can receive assistance through our veterans services program. It is a place that, every day, you will know the Chickasaw Nation honors and appreciates you for all that you’ve done for this country, for the people of this country and for the Chickasaw Nation.”

Increased activities for veterans and their loved ones are planned at the lodge. The first is Wednesday, July 11, with a summer celebration from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Gov. Anoatubby said he had challenged leaders and employees to schedule more activities at the lodge in the future.

An amendment to add Chickasaw veterans’ preference in hiring, Gov. Anoatubby said, would be advanced to the Chickasaw Legislature. Currently, preferential hiring status is offered to Chickasaws, followed by citizens of other tribes.

“We want to add a Chickasaw veterans’ preference,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “I’m going to run it by the legislature. If you’re a Chickasaw and a veteran you’ll get double preference.”

Chickasaw Veterans Services is collaborating with many other departments to develop programs and services to assist veterans.

To illustrate the tribe’s commitment, a panel discussion of several departments showed ways in which all could assist veterans.

Human Resources senior recruitment manager Haleigh Ralls told veterans the department would help them compose a resume’, prepare them for job interviews and help with employment searches. Kay Perry, Counseling and Loan Services director, said her department could assist by repairing credit or providing financial counseling. The department can also help veterans purchase a home. Medisaw director Yvette Ryan said her staff was prepared to help veterans receive medical care and benefits that fall outside care provided by Indian Health Service.

“The veterans lodge, veterans services, the Chickasaw Warriors Society and this conference exist to serve you and gives us an opportunity to express our gratitude to you,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “Although we can’t fully express our gratitude – it’s just virtually impossible to do that or to give a gift as great as the one you have given us – the Chickasaw Nation is going to continue to do what it can to honor your service and your sacrifice.”