Senator holding workshops for veterans Nov. 10

Great Falls Tribune

by Peter Johnson

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has scheduled a veterans opportunity workshop in Great Falls for Nov. 10, the day before Veterans Day. The Montana Democrat will bring in experts to make presentations to veterans about improving job skills, getting education benefits, navigating Veterans Administration’s complex rules to become eligible for health benefits and understanding services available to the families of deployed service members.

The free event will be from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Heritage Inn, 1700 Fox Farm Road.

Tester said the workshop will provide information to all veterans and current service members, but might be particularly valuable for younger veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars because of changes in federal law.

“As military efforts continue overseas, more and more young Montanans are joining the ranks of our nation’s veterans, and Montana remains second behind Alaska in the number of veterans per capita,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “We’re working to make sure these folks can take advantage of the benefits they’ve earned, and to make sure their families have the support they deserve.”

Tester said he has held four previous workshops around the state, which were attended by 200 to 300 people, covering the topics of job creation and boost¬ing Montana businesses, but doesn’t know how many veterans to expect at the Great Falls event.

“A lot of these guys have been changed by war, and some don’t like to be in a building with a lot of other people,” Tester said. “But we’re trying to break barriers and make them comfortable as the experts take the mystery out of the equation of veterans’ benefits.”

At the beginning of Wednesday’s event— from 8 to 8:30 a.m. —volunteers from two private groups, Montanans Supporting Soldiers and Stand Down Great Falls, will accept donations of warm clothing, nonperishable food, toiletries, blankets and sleeping bags. The items are being collected for distribution at a later Stand Down event for veterans, a Tester aide said, but if veterans are in immediate need, efforts will be made to get them supplies quickly.