Tester, American Legion Warn Against VA Risking Veterans Access to Quality Care
American Legion Presents 2019 Legislative Priorities to Congress
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester and American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad expressed their concerns about the impact on veterans' health care under the current roll-out of the VA MISSION Act.
The American Legion was instrumental in crafting the VA MISSION Act, which overhauls the VA's community care system. Now Tester is asking for the American Legion's help in making sure the VA works with veterans, VSOs and Congress to implement it properly.
"When we send veterans into the private sector, if we're making wait times better but decreasing quality of care - we didn't win. If we're making wait times longer - we didn't win," said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "When it comes to expanding care, would the American Legion be alarmed if access to the community meant a reduction in quality or timeliness of care for veterans?"
"With all due respect, today is National No-Brainer Day. That's a no-brainer," Reistad responded.
Tester also asked the American Legion to weigh in on their 2019 budget priorities, although the Administration has yet to release its VA budget request.
"Normally, we hold this hearing after the President's Budget Request for the VA is submitted to Congress," Tester said. "That's not the case today because we are still waiting on that funding request. But I would like to provide the Legion with the opportunity to talk about what you believe we should be looking for in that budget when it finally comes over."
"It was shared several months ago that the Administration asked for a five percent cut to all federal agencies, and instantly the American Legion began engaging the VA and the White House to say that this isn't a time to be cutting any budget from the VA," replied American Legion Legislative Director Matt Shuman. "This is a time to ensure we keep the promises made to the men and women who selflessly raised their right hands."
On Monday, Tester and his colleagues on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees participated in a Fireside Chat at the American Legion's National Convention to discuss similar topics including efforts to reduce suicides in the veteran population. Fireside Chat photos can be found HERE, courtesy of Lucas Carter and the American Legion, and video can be found HERE.
Following the Fireside Chat, Tester was presented with the Distinguished Public Service Award by the American Legion for his continued efforts as Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Photos of Tester receiving the Distinguished Public Service Award can be found online HERE, courtesy of Schelly Stone and the American Legion.
Tester's full opening statement to the American Legion delegation can be found HERE.
The American Legion hearing is the second in a series of joint Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings in which the nation's leading Veterans Service Organizations will deliver their 2019 legislative priorities to Congress. More information about the upcoming hearings can be found online HERE. More information about the hearing with the American Legion can be found HERE.