Montana Right Now: Sergeant Travis Atkins VA Center opens in Bozeman, honoring the legacy of a Montana veteran who gave the ultimate sacrifice

by Bradley Warren

It’s been over 10 years since a staff Sergeant Travis Atkins died at the age of 31 in combat.

In May 2019, he was honored at the White House with the Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump for his sacrifice.

His son accepted the award on his behalf.

Atkins gave his life protecting his fellow troops, he threw himself on top of a suicide bomber.

Former President Donald Trump said that Atkins’s courage and legacy will live on for all time through that Medal of Freedom but another way it will continue to live on is through the brand new Travis Atkins VA Center in Bozeman, Montana which opened Friday.

“An American hero, Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms and to protect his fellow soldiers,” Gov. Gianforte said. “It’s appropriate and right that Montanans, especially our veterans, can honor his legacy of unparalleled courage and sacrifice at this clinic for generations to come.”‘

While in congress, Gianforte, did vote against the federal budget bill which would have given these funds to the VA.

Senator Jon Tester pushed for the funding of $4.7 million so that the center could have additional space to expand for Bozeman area veterans.

The new facility is 14,000 ft.² which is twice the size of the old facility and it will include primary care, women’s health rooms, behavioral health mental, health, and other forms of therapy to serve 2200 veterans in Bozeman.

Tester is the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he says in that role he can elevate Montana’s voice, as of recently he called on VA Secretary Denis McDonough to further expand the new space and offer more services for veterans.

As a result, the VA agreed to expand the space in Bozeman by several thousand square feet to provide additional physical therapy and audiology services.

In December 2020, the United States Senate unanimously passed legislation to rename the center after Travis Atkins, giving his legacy a permanent footprint in his hometown of Bozeman Montana

When it comes to the VA the senator says he’s working to ensure it has the support it needs to run efficiently. There is controversy with the VA surrounding the EHRM program.

A watchdog report recently reported safety concerns with the roll-out of the new Electronic Health Record Modernization program.

“These reports are unacceptable and make clear the EHRM program is not where it needs to be. For years, I have aggressively pushed VA under Trump and now the Biden Administrations to address deficiencies and challenges within this program, which can disrupt the delivery of care to our veterans. As Chairman, I’ll continue holding VA and Cerner accountable in making necessary changes before expanding the program elsewhere across the country-to ensure providers can safely deliver our nation’s veterans the care they need and earned.”

The new EHR has been deployed at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, WA and due to issues delays the ability to book appointments and get prescriptions.

The reports detail critical patient safety issues related to the implementation of the EHRM, including medication management concerns, clinical care coordination challenges, and EHR system issue ticketing and tracking.

Senator Tester says that the next item on his agenda is pushing forward the toxic exposure build that has bipartisan support.