Tester urges VA to expand Missoula outpatient clinic sooner


by Martin Kidston

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand its Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Missoula sooner rather than later, saying the center is vital to the medical care of regional veterans.

In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Tester said a nine-month wait to tackle a proposed expansion of the clinic is too long.

“Veterans in Missoula and surrounding communities rely heavily upon this clinic to address their health care needs, including mental health care needs, and it is proving difficult for the current facility to accommodate the growing patient demand,” Tester wrote in the letter. “I urge the VA to do absolutely everything it can to expedite the clinic’s expansion request.”

Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said a VA capital management consulting team recently visited Missoula and recommended the clinic expand its 18,000-square-foot facility on Palmer Street by more than 5,000 additional square feet.

Despite the project’s needs, Tester said, the clinic would have to wait up to nine months for the expansion. Tester asked Shinseki to speed up the process, saying nine months was too long to wait.

“After more than a decade of war, doctors and nurses are having trouble keeping up with the growing health care needs of our fighting men and women,” Tester said. “Expanding Missoula’s VA clinic will make sure that Montana’s veterans get the mental and physical health care they need, and I’ll keep pushing the VA until they get it done.”

The director of the Community Based Outpatient Clinic couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday. The clinic is part of the VA Montana health care system.