Serving our veterans is a bipartisan responsibility

by U.S. Senator Jon Tester

On Veterans Day, we pause to remember the enduring sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their families, the bravery they showed in service to our nation, and the unwavering responsibility we have to them when they return from war.

From the Greatest Generation of World War II to the veterans of Korea and Vietnam, those who came before us courageously defended our freedoms and helped make America the nation it is today.

And now, after more than a decade entangled in military conflicts across the globe, there is a generation of younger service members who have been deployed time and again, and know nothing but war and conflict.

While these men and women represent the very best our nation has to offer, these battles have taken their toll: the tragic loss of life, the physical injuries that plague those who return and the unseen wounds that haunt their lives.

There is no doubt that serving our veterans and their families is a cost of war. And the services and benefits that our nation provides mark our nation’s strength, just as much as the military might we show around the world.

Over the past few years, we have made progress in delivering better care for Montana veterans. Just this year alone, I worked with Republicans and Democrats to write and send seven major veterans bills to President Trump’s desk. These laws will hold the VA accountable making it easier to fire bad employees, expand education benefits for Guardsmen and Reservists, and improve the Choice Program, which allows veterans to get health care outside the VA.

I’m proud of our bipartisan accomplishments. They prove that we can cut through political gridlock and deliver for Montana.

But our work to reform the VA is not certainly not done.

I have heard from veterans in Glasgow who had to wait weeks to see a doctor, because the VA hasn’t been able to hire a primary care provider for its clinic in years. I talked to veterans in Billings who are forced to travel to Wyoming to get dental care. And Butte veterans are still waiting for the VA to approve their nursing home.

That’s why we must redouble our efforts, address the VA’s workforce shortages, and make it easier for community providers to fill in the gaps of care when the VA can’t.

When veterans suffer from the unseen wounds of war, we must ensure they can access mental health care. And we must do whatever it takes to end the unacceptable and heartbreaking frequency of suicide.

When our military men and women want a better education, we must ensure they can earn a degree.

When our veterans are ready to transition from military service to civilian life, we must ensure they have a good paying job and a safe place to call home.

And when our veterans get lost in the VA bureaucracy, we must hold our government accountable to deliver.

Honoring the men and women who serve us is not a partisan issue, it is a bipartisan responsibility.

God bless our men and women in uniform, past, present, and future. On this Veterans Day, and every day.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, is a ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.