Tester Succeeds in Pushing the VA to Establish a Regional Benefits Director in Montana
New Post at Fort Harrison will Help Deliver Benefits to Veterans
(Missoula, Mont.) - Ranking Member Jon Tester has successfully gotten the VA to post a new Director at the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office to strengthen the delivery of benefits to Montana veterans.
Tester has been pushing the VA for seven years to establish this position because of the high volume of claims processed in Montana. While the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office serves one of the largest and most rural states, the Director for Montana is currently based out of Salt Lake City, 480 miles away.
"Veterans who live in Montana face unique barriers to VA services and benefits," said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "By having a Director based in Fort Harrison and dedicated to delivering benefits to veterans in our state, we can make sure the VA is addressing the challenges of claims processing in a way that works for Montanans."
The Director of the Regional Benefits Office is responsible for the delivery of all VA benefits processed in their region. In addition to the Director, the VA will potentially hire an assistant and an analyst to assist in managing the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office.
Tester first called on the VA in 2011 to hire a Director to be based out of Fort Harrison and focused on Montana veterans. In 2012, Tester successfully fought to make Fort Harrison a test location for a new claims processing initiative and bring in additional staff to improve Montana veterans' access to their earned benefits.
In March of 2015, Tester urged then Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey to continue building off the successes and growing staff at Fort Harrison by hiring a Director.
In October of 2017 Tester called on the VA to hire an on-site Director for VA Montana. After voting to confirm Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence in April, Tester followed up his in-person meeting and confirmation hearing by asking for Lawrence's commitment to bringing the Director for VA Montana to Fort Harrison. During a meeting in June, Lawrence verbally committed to Tester that he would hire a Regional Benefits Director at Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office.
The posting for the Director can be viewed online HERE.