Susan Yeager officially reported to the Alaska VA on April 25, 2011 in a newly created position as Rural Health Program Coordinator. The position was created in support of the VA’s commitment to provide health care to every Veteran who honorably served this Nation. The Alaska VA Healthcare System has expanded health care access through a system of clinics located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai/Homer, Mat-Su, and Juneau; however, approximately 13 percent of the Alaska Veteran population lives outside a borough in which there is a VA Clinic. Alaska is the largest state geographically as well as number of Veterans per capita, and Veterans need to know their benefits. Ms. Yeager will also be meeting with health care corporations in the rural areas to ascertain how VA can work closely with them in the provision of health care to Veterans who are not near a VA health care facility.
Ms. Yeager has already met with various Alaska Native health organizations to include Ketchikan, Metlakatla, and SEARHC in Southeast Alaska; the Kenaitze Tribe in Kenai; Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel; Maniilaq Health Corporation in Kotzebue; and has future trips planned to other areas of the state. As a result of a presentation made to the Alaska Native Health Board, a working group has been established to foster a VA/Native Corporation partnership using the VA consultation process leading to improved Veteran and Tribal services. The VA is committed to improving health and benefits access to rural Veterans. An outreach is scheduled for Barrow September 20 and 21, 2011.
The newly created position will work closely with VA’s newly created Office of Tribal and Government Relations in Washington, DC. Stephanie Birdwell, Director of the newly created office, visited Alaska during Memorial Day weekend with Secretary Shinseki and remained in Alaska to meet with Alaska Native health leaders at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Alaska Area Native Health Service/Indian Health Service, and the Alaska Native Health Board.
Ms. Yeager is no stranger to Alaska having come to Alaska in 1990 as the Director for the IHS Hospital in Barrow. She was the Operating Officer of the Alaska VA and went on to serve as the Director of the Alaska Federal Health Care Partnership from 1996 to 2002. Most recently Ms. Yeager served as the Director of the VA Roseburg Healthcare System in Oregon.