3 bills to help veterans by U.S. Sen. Tester win committee approval

Lee State Bureau

HELENA – Three bills by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to expand veterans’ access to care and improve their mental health care won committee approval Tuesday.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee endorsed Tester’s bills to expand veterans’ access to care and improve their mental health care.

Tester said Montana’s veterans and their families have made tremendous sacrifices and earned high-quality health care.

“As Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, it’s my job to make sure veterans and their families get the care and benefits they earned – no matter where they live,” Tester said. “These measures will raise veterans’ standard of care, bring more health professionals to Montana and make sure more rural veterans can access the care they need.”

Among the bills passed was his Rural Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which Tester said is based on feedback he received at a subcommittee hearing in May. It would strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ mental health and telemedicine initiatives.

Tester said it will encourage the VA to recruit more licensed professional mental health counselors and marriage therapists to help veterans and their families, identify issues hindering the expansion of telemedicine as a treatment tool and require the VA to determine the feasibility of providing mental health services to veterans’ immediate family members.

The committee also passed Tester bills to make sure veterans get timely access to vaccines and authorize the VA to conduct a pilot program to speed up the processing of compensation claims for veterans’ families.