National veterans group seeks Native veterans

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — A national organization is sharing information about advocating for veterans services in hopes of increasing interest in tribal communities.

Craig McClure poses for a portrait with his dogs Moose, left, and Chosposi Tuesday during a visit to Farmington to draw attention to the nonprofit group Concerned Veterans for America.

Craig McClure is a Native American liaison for Concerned Veterans for America, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va., and this week he is visiting Four Corners communities to share information about the group.

In a telephone interview today, McClure, who is based in Albuquerque, said the organization is interested in sharing information with Native American veterans groups as well as learning about issues they face.

With many tribal communities located in remote areas, he said it is beneficial for veterans to work together because they often experience similar problems, and the organization would like to have a unified voice from tribal groups to help the mission of advocating for policies that help veterans.

As a national organization, one of the main focuses is addressing health care access for veterans, he said.

In addition to providing outreach to tribes, McClure, who is an Air Force, Army and Navy veteran, visits veterans groups at community colleges.

A number of publications have reported about the connection and alleged partisan agenda between Concerned Veterans for America and the Koch brothers, two billionaire businessmen who have founded and funded conservative and libertarian political organizations.

When asked about the association, McClure said the organization receives funding from a number of individuals, including the Koch brothers. He said if individuals are helping with funds, he does not care if they are Democratic or Republican.

He added there was bipartisan support when the VA Accountability Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would authorize the Department of Veteran Affairs to remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct. The bill was introduced after reports surfaced in 2014 about mismanagement of veterans health care at the VA hospital in Phoenix.

The bill passed the House in July 2015 and is awaiting consideration by the Senate.

Another project the group is undertaking calls for an audit of the Department of Defense, something that has not occurred since President Ronald Reagan's administration, McClure said.

If Concerned Veterans for America was a partisan organization, it would not be pushing for an audit, he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.