Tester attends Kalispell veteran's center opening


KALISPELL- Montana Senator Jon Tester was in the Flathead on Friday for the grand opening of the new Kalispell Veterans Center. The facility has been operational for about a year now,and has already been helping vets from all over Northwest Montana.

Tester, along with representatives from Max Baucus and Denny Rehberg's offices all took in the grand opening event in Kalispell. Tester, who has been a part of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, says past vets have pushed him to create these centers.

"It was the Vietnam vets that stood up and said 'you gotta do a better job of taking care of these kids coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan'. And that's what this is about, a lot of these folks are coming back with injuries you can see, a lot of them can't be seen," Tester commented. "And they've gotta be treated by professionals if they're gonna have any chance of re-integrating back into society. And having any kind of quality of life."

VA Montana Health Care System Director Robin Korogi says that before the Kalsipell center was up and running, vets would have to go to Missoula to receive services. "They can access services without having to worry about the weather and travel," Korogi said.

Senator Tester says his office is working on making mileage reimbursements a reality for this center as well.

"I think this facility is really really important for Northwest Montana, we've got a lot of veterans up here. A lot of veterans need the kind of services that this vet center is gonna give. What we've gotta do is make sure there's mileage reimbursement for folks to go to VA clinics for disabled vets, we've gotta make sure it applies to vet centers too, and we're gonna be working on that."

Director of the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry, Allen Erickson says he constantly directs vets to the center. "I send a lot of vets up here. And all the vets that come up here send nothing but great reviews of these folks. I'm really glad they're here."

Vet centers like the one in Kalispell were formed as alternatives to VA Clinics, but they really focus on mental health and readjustment counseling for those who have served in Combat arenas.