‘Historic agreement’ reached between VA, Cherokee Nation to expand veterans care in Oklahoma

By: - October 16, 2023 4:39 pm

A new agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Cherokee Nation could reshape how veterans receive care in rural areas, officials said. (Getty Images) (This image cannot be republished unless you have a subscription to Getty.)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Cherokee Nation have entered into a “historic agreement” that officials said could serve as a “roadmap” for how rural America can work with tribes to increase care for veterans.

Through the partnership, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System plans to open a new 1,300-square-foot clinic inside the tribe’s existing Vinita Health Center, according to a press release.  

The clinic, which will serve both non-Native and Indigenous veterans, is expected to open early next year. It will be located about an hour northeast of Tulsa.

“By having a VA clinic positioned in the corner of our state and tribal reservation, we know that we are helping ensure that need is met and will make it easier for many veterans,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement. 

Officials said conversations about the “unique partnership” began when the VA in 2021 announced that its Vinita outpatient location would close to allow the federal agency to offer services elsewhere. The Vinita clinic closed Aug. 11, and patients have to travel to a new location a little over 30 minutes away in Claremore. 

Five VA staff will work out of the new clinic.

“The Cherokee Nation believes in strong partnerships, and we know this will serve as a model,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said in a statement. “The Cherokee Nation and VA share a similar mission and that is taking care of our veterans.”

Once the Vinita clinic opens, there will be five outpatient clinics in the region, officials said. The VA serves about 53,000 veterans living in eastern Oklahoma.

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Janelle Stecklein
Janelle Stecklein

Janelle Stecklein is editor of Oklahoma Voice. An award-winning journalist, Stecklein has been covering Oklahoma government and politics since moving to the state in 2014.