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Dec 7, 2012

VA adopts Tester’s model to improve Indian veterans’ health care

(HAMILTON, Mont.) - The Department of Veterans Affairs is implementing a model put forward by Senator Jon Tester to provide better health care to Native American veterans.

The VA this week signed an agreement with the Indian Health Service (IHS) where the department will reimburse tribal health providers for direct health care services provided to Native American veterans.

For years, the VA and the IHS failed to work together to deliver needed care, leaving many Indian veterans without access to quality health services. But earlier this year Tester pushed the VA and IHS to sign an agreement on the Blackfeet Reservation that improves health care for Blackfeet veterans in Montana. If implemented properly, the new agreement will resolve the long-standing problem of the VA and the IHS each directing Native American veterans to seek care at the other's facility rather than simply treating the veteran.

"Too many Native American veterans struggle to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and rural isolation to get the quality health care they earned," said Tester. "I'm pleased the VA and the Indian Health Service reached an agreement to improve veterans' access to care and save money while ensuring that we honor our promises to Native American veterans in Montana and nationwide."

After joining the Senate in 2007, Native American veterans told Tester that the VA and IHS often failed to provide care to Indian veterans due to disagreements about cost. At a hearing called by Tester to draw attention to the problem, Tester encouraged the agencies to work together, resulting in the successful Blackfeet agreement.

Montana is expected to be one of the first states where the VA will reimburse the IHS for Native veterans' care. There are more than 5,000 Native American veterans in Montana.

Tester, Montana's only member of both the Senate Veterans' and Indian Affairs Committees, also recently improved Native veterans' access to care by improving the transportation service that many veterans rely on.

A copy of the new agreement between the VA and IHS is available online HERE.


Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Glendive, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.


Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768


Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647


Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717


122 W Towne
Glendive, MT 59330
Phone: (406) 365-2391
Fax: (406) 365-8836

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586


Capital One Center
208 N Montana Avenue, Suite 202
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462


8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974


130 W Front Street
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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