Bill calls on Navajo Nation to oppose proposal to close VA clinics

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, who sponsored legislation opposing the closure of VA clinics proposed by the Veteran's Administration,  is seen speaking on April 2 at the 2022 National Vietnam War Veterans Day event in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — A new bill seeks to have the Navajo Nation oppose a proposal by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to shut down four outpatient clinics in New Mexico.

The VA recommended that clinics in Gallup, Española, Las Vegas and Raton close, partly to centralize medical services to larger facilities and because patient volume at the four clinics have decreased in the last five years.

The proposal was in the Asset and Infrastructure Review report the VA released in March.

Shortly after its release, Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. spoke against the recommendation because the clinics provide critical services to Navajo veterans, who travel miles and miles for medical care.

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"The demand for quality care and access to telehealth service is unavailable for many of our returning veterans on the Navajo Nation," Begay said in a statement. "This is unacceptable, and the Veterans Administration must consult with our tribal communities before any closures."

"The Navajo Nation understands that closing the community-based outpatient clinic in Gallup, New Mexico would detrimentally disadvantage Navajo veterans who receive care at that facility because the veterans would be obligated to travel even further to receive VA healthcare," the bill states.

The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, was posted on the Navajo Nation Council's website on April 22.

In addition to stating the tribe's opposition, the bill requests the VA's Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission review, analyze and recommend outpatient clinics or a VA health care facility be built on the Navajo Nation.

The tribe has called on Congress and presidents to establish direct services for Navajo veterans in resolutions passed by council delegates in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

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Since the VA released its report in March, members of New Mexico's congressional delegation have spoken against the proposed closures.

The recommendations outlined in the report is the first step in a multi-year process, including further review by Congress and the president, according to the tribe's Office of the Speaker.

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

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