After Tester’s Years-Long Efforts, Montana Welcomes First-Ever Regional Benefits Director
Beginning today, Michael Crouse to serve as Director of the Fort Harrison Veterans Affairs’ Regional Benefits Office
(Big Sandy, Mont.) - Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Jon Tester today is welcoming Michael Crouse as the first-ever Regional Director at Fort Harrison, after championing a push for VA to better serve veterans in Montana. Earlier this year, Tester announced that VA hired Crouse to serve in this critical role.
As a senior leader in the Veterans Benefits Administration, Director Crouse is responsible for directing efforts to administer benefits to approximately 93,000 veterans and their families throughout Montana. His leadership in the region will expand the agency's footprint across the state, helping ensure the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office will continue to deliver accurate and timely benefits to veterans.
"This day has been a long time coming for Montana veterans and their families, and I'm looking forward to working with Director Crouse and his staff to build on the strengths of the Fort Harrison Regional Benefits Office-which is among the very best in the nation for processing accurate and timely claims," said Tester. "For years, I have been pushing VA to establish this position in Helena because we need a qualified leader in Montana who knows how to address the challenges of processing claims and can build on the Office's efforts to get veterans the timely benefits and support they earned. It's an exciting new chapter for VA here in Montana."
Tester has been pushing VA to establish this critical position for years due to the high volume of claims processed in one of the largest and most rural states in the country. He first called on VA in 2011 to hire a director based in Fort Harrison to focus on veterans living in Montana. The following year, Tester successfully fought to make Fort Harrison a test location for a new claims processing initiative and recruit 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 a 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.
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 VA, Crouse served in the U.S. Army for 23 years.