Tester Announces New Director for Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office
VA Hires Michael Crouse After Senator Pushed for Montana-Based Director
(U.S. Senate) - Ranking Member Jon Tester today announced Michael Crouse will be starting as the new Fort Harrison Regional Director, a position he urged the VA to establish to better serve veterans.
In September, Tester successfully pushed the VA to post the position for a new Director at the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office because of the high volume of claims processed in one of the largest and most rural states. Today he announced that Crouse has been hired to take over as Director in Fort Harrison.
"I look forward to working with Mr. Crouse to build on the strengths of the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office and make sure that the VA is getting every Montana veteran their benefits," said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "I hope Mr. Crouse is ready to hit the ground running and take the time to get to know the hard-working employees at Fort Harrison and the challenges facing Montana veterans from Hamilton to Plentywood."
Crouse has been the Assistant Director of the Salt Lake City Regional Benefits Office since 2015. He previously served as a Special Mission Project Officer at the Disability Rating Activity Site at the Seattle Regional Benefits Office. Prior to joining the VA, Crouse served in the U.S. Army for 23 years.
Crouse will be responsible for the delivery of all VA benefits processed in Montana. The Director will potentially hire an assistant and an analyst to assist in managing the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office.
Tester has been calling on the VA to establish this position for seven years.
He 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 again 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 2018, 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 2018, Lawrence verbally committed to Tester that he would hire a Regional Benefits Director at Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office.