Standard view: Tester's force of will won the day for veterans

by Montana Standard

Sometimes in politics, nuance is everything. Other times, and other issues, require force. Force of will, force in approach.

And Jon Tester is not a subtle human being.

While we are certain there are times as a U.S. Senator when finesse is important, a strong sense of purpose, bluntness and a healthy chunk of seniority seem to work pretty well.

Exhibit A would be the funding of the veterans’ home in Butte.

For a good portion of the nearly 12 years he has been in the Senate, Tester has been pushing to obtain federal funding to build the home.

As, certainly, has Steve Daines for the last four years.

Tester’s length of service and his passion for veterans’ issues has resulted in him being the ranking Democrat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. And from that perch, he delivered a remarkably unsubtle solution to the funding quandary Butte faced.

The project has been held hostage for years by the vicissitudes of bureaucracy. The formula for determining the priority of the project as compared to the others in the pipeline nationwide has changed over the past few years. The most recent prioritization formula is based on raw population numbers in the surrounding area. Which means that despite the very real need for the home, and the fact that nearly 10 percent of Montana’s population is made up of veterans, the Butte project was doomed to stay so far down the list you’d need spelunking gear to find it.

Tester’s decidedly unsubtle approach was called for.

In order for the Butte project to get its $8 million in funding, 50 other veterans’ home projects around the country would have to be funded first – at a cost of some $677 million.

So that’s exactly what Tester worked to do.

On the correct assumption that veterans all across the country need these facilities, as do veterans in southwest Montana, we view that as tax money well spent. For too many years, the federal government has spent more and more on the military, but when our troops come back from war needing our help, the money has not been there (and what has been there has been poorly administered). That’s not just flat wrong, it’s scandalous.

This profusion of new veterans’ homes will make many veterans’ lives, and the lives of their families, better. They deserve it.

And this is one project in which we’re glad the senator used a mallet instead of a scalpel.

Now, given the grievous management difficulties the VA is experiencing in Montana and elsewhere, the agency and Congress must make sure the Butte home – and all the others – are managed correctly and provide the services veterans need and deserve.