VA chief addresses concerns at Ada event - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

VA chief addresses concerns at Ada event

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs addressed state and tribal leaders in Ada. (KTEN) Secretary of Veterans Affairs addressed state and tribal leaders in Ada. (KTEN)

ADA, Okla. -- Oklahoma native Robert Wilkie was appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs a little more than 100 days ago. He's been on the move non-stop since then, and on Wednesday, he visited Ada.

More than 200 people came to hear Wilkie address the problems facing military veterans, and to learn about some of his proposed solutions.

The military has always been a part of his life.  The Comanche County native knows just how important Native American tribes are to the armed services.

"They serve in the military in numbers disproportionate to their size of the population," Wilkie said. "I want that service to be recognized."

Leaders of Oklahoma's 39 tribes and other state officials joined the new secretary at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center on Wednesday morning to talk about some of the main problems between Washington and the states.

"One of the things we have to do better -- and I'm committed to it -- is creating that closer relationship between V.A. and state and local leaders," Wilkie said.

The secretary also assured those in attendance that suicide prevention for veterans is among his top priorities.

"The suicide task force will be a national effort," Wilkie said. "The president will hand the reigns, I believe, to me, and we will get the departments together."

He said another ongoing concern is ensuring that returning veterans get all the help they earned.

"Those family caregivers from Vietnam, from Korea, will finally get financial support so that they can take care of those veterans from those two wars," Wilkie said.

Ada isn't the last stop on the secretary's trail; he's planning to meet with more veterans all across the nation.

'"I'll be up and down the Great Plains," Wilkie said. "My focus is actually, really, on rural America."

Although there are no immediate plans for Wilkie to return to Oklahoma, he said being back home on Wednesday was a thrill.

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