Native veterans allotment bill before Congress

Legislation now before Congress would allow Alaska Native Vietnam veterans who missed the opportunity while serving in the war to apply for land benefits under the Native Allotment Act of 1906.

HR. 2387, the Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act, introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, passed by a voice vote on Sept. 22 in the House Committee on Natural Resources, and a spokesman for Young said he is hopeful that the legislation would be signed into law during the 114th Congress.

In the Senate, similar legislation is sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska. Murkowski also included the Alaska Native Veteran Land Allotment Equity Act provisions within S. 3273, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Improvements Act of 2016, which would make technical corrections and other changes to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Young said that many Alaska Native veterans who were overseas were unable to apply for land allotments promised by the federal government before the process ended. In 1998, Congress opened an application period for these veterans, but only those who served from 1969 to 1971 were allowed to apply. H.R. 2387 expands the military service dates to coincide with the entire conflict, which officially lasted from 1964 through 1975, Young said.

The bill would also increase available land for selection by Alaska Native veterans and reduces previous restrictions and occupancy requirements that prevented many veterans from receiving allotments during the prior open season, he said.