The Cherokee Nation and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System officially opened its VA Clinic inside the tribe’s Vinita Health Center this week.


VINITA, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System officially opened its VA Clinic inside the tribe’s Vinita Health Center this week.

The historic partnership now provides a VA clinic inside the Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center for area Veterans. The 1,300 square feet of leased space with a VA Primary Care Team, serves both Native and non-Native Veterans in the region.

The tribe and VA celebrated the opening during a ceremony Wednesday.

 “Today marks a significant moment for the Cherokee Nation and the VA coming together, finding solutions for Veteran care and creating a roadmap for how rural America can work hand-in-hand with tribes to serve as a model for others across the state,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.  “We hold all Veterans in the highest regard, and every day we strive to ensure they have the services they need within reach, which they now have within the doors of the Vinita Health Center thanks to this historic partnership.”

The VA clinic includes a waiting area, exam rooms, work areas, and parking and will work with the tribe’s Vinita Health Center to accomplish lab and x-ray services for seamless care.

“This first of its kind VA healthcare facility is a testament to our partnership with Cherokee Nation and our commitment to providing exceptional care to Veterans,” said Executive Director of the Eastern Oklahoma Health Care System Dr. Kimberly Denning. “This clinic will not only address the immediate healthcare needs of Veterans but also foster a culture of preventative care and well-being.”

When the closure of the former VA health clinic in Vinita was announced in 2021, the Cherokee Nation and VA quickly engaged to find a solution and close the gap. Former Vinita Mayor Chuck Hoskin, a Navy Veteran, engaged with Denning and Assistant Director’s Eugene Schmidt and Greg Norton who were willing to explore the unique partnership to ensure VA services were maintained in the area.

“As a Veteran and a lifelong resident of Vinita I know how important it is for Veterans to have access to health care close to home,” said former Vinita Mayor Chuck Hoskin. “I’m grateful for the work of Chief Hoskin, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Deputy Speaker of the Council Victoria Vazquez and Cherokee Nation Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, and the forward-thinking VA leadership Dr. Denning and Assistant Director’s Eugene Schmidt and Greg Norton, to make this historic tribal-federal partnership a reality. I appreciate all of the expansion and modernization efforts VA is undertaking, but it is particularly meaningful to me that they were willing to find a way to keep a presence in Vinita.”

Following Wednesday’s grand opening ceremony, Cherokee Nation and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System held a flag-raising ceremony in honor of the new VA Clinic at the tribe’s Vinita Health Center.

The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System serves about 53,000 Veterans. The new Vinita VA clinic is one of five outpatient clinics operated by the VA. 

“The Cherokee Nation continues to expand services for our Cherokee Warriors and to ensure Veterans have access to overall wellness – mind, body and spirit – through the efforts of our Office of Veterans Affairs and other tribal departments,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “The men and women who have served this country and their tribal Nation deserve the best care possible. The Cherokee Nation and VA share this mission of caring for our Veterans, and this collaboration is a great example of how we are doing that in the spirit of Gadugi, by working together.”

The Cherokee Nation Veterans Center in Tahlequah also serves Veterans with benefits, meals, housing needs and food security and connects Veterans to federal programs and services. The tribe also works throughout the year to address food insecurities among Cherokee Veterans and to connect Veterans to health and wellness programs and services.

“The Vinita VA clinic is already making a positive impact on the many Veterans who live in and around Craig County,” said District 11 Councilor and Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez.

The VA Clinic at the Vinita Health Center served its first Veterans Tuesday and is now open.

“Our Cherokee Nation Office of Veterans Affairs serves an essential role among the Veteran community, and this partnership is of immense importance to the Cherokee Nation Reservation and the region,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden.

Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group.