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Department of Veterans Affairs Proposes Updates to Departmental Consultation Policy

On January 26, 2024, The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it had updated its Tribal Consultation Policy after a years-long information gathering and revision process. The VA Tribal Consultation Policy, first implemented in 2011, guides the VA’s approach to engaging with Tribes during Tribal consultation. Tribal consultation is a formal, two-way, government-to-government dialogue between official representatives of Tribes and Federal agencies to discuss federal proposals, policies, and programs that have Tribal implications. Consultation allows for the exchange of information, respectful dialogue, consensus building, mutual understanding, and informed policy-making and programmatic development. 

The proposed updated policy reflects Tribal input gathered from a March 2021 Dear Tribal Leader Letter (DTLL) requesting written comments and six Tribal Consultations hosted in April 2021. Additionally, the VA Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee reviewed the old policy and offered its recommended changes throughout 2022. The VA compiled the feedback gathered during the Tribal Consultations and from written comments into a report, which summarizes the newly proposed changes. Notable changes in the VA’s Tribal Consultation policy include:

  • a new provision recognizing the VA’s role in upholding the federal Trust responsibility;
  • reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP);
  • a new section clarifying internal VA responsibility for implementation of the VA’s Tribal Consultation Policy; and
  • language that strengthens the notice requirements for the VA to alert Tribes of consultations, bringing the policy into alignment with President Biden’s November 30, 2022, Memorandum on Uniform Standards for Tribal Consultation.

NIHB submitted comments on this issue which are available here. If you have questions about the policy, you can contact Garrett Lankford at [email protected] or (202) 996-4302.

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