Bill to protect vets’ health

Great Falls Tribune

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced a bill clarifying that veterans’ health care will be protected in the face of potential federal budget cuts.

Under a bipartisan measure approved last year, the federal budget is scheduled to automatically shrink by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

“America’s veterans made huge sacrifices for this country, and it’s our responsibility to honor them by improving their access to the quality health care they earned,” Tester said in a news release. “With more and more veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan back home in Montana, we need to fiercely defend veterans’ services, not cut them.”

The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires automatic budget cuts for 10 years, totaling $1.2 trillion, beginning in 2013, unless Congress passes specific deficit-reduction measures. Although the law was meant to protect veterans’ health care, Tester said it is currently unclear whether veterans’ health care could be part of the automatic cuts. His bill clarifies that it won’t be cut.

Under the bill, veterans’ pension and disability compensation benefits also would be exempt from the automatic cuts.

Tester’s bill is supported by the VFW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS.

Since taking office, Tester successfully boosted the VA’s budget in order to improve access to health care for all veterans— especially those in rural states such as Montana.