Tester calls for second phase of funding during VA Clinic dedication

(BILLINGS, Mont.) – After thanking veterans during the dedication of Montana’s newest VA Clinic in Billings, Senator Jon Tester today announced that he has asked the U.S. Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to fund the second phase of construction of the new facility.

Tester delivered the keynote speech at today’s dedication of the Billings VA Clinic. 

In 2008, Tester brought then-Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake to Billings to see firsthand the cramped and insufficient old clinic on King Avenue.  After Peake’s visit to Billings, the VA prioritized construction of the new, 25,000-square foot clinic on Billings’ West End.

“The building and dedication of this new facility reminds us all that our obligation—to look after all those who have kept us safe—does not stop when they come home,” said Tester, who serves on both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Appropriations Committees.

Tester today told veterans that he has asked the new VA Secretary to provide a second phase of funding for the clinic to build an on-site pharmacy, laboratories, and exam rooms.  In a letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki, Tester said that having all of those services in once location will make life “just a little easier for the veterans using this Clinic.”

“When you serve our country, you earn quality health care when you come home,” Tester told veterans today.  “You have waited far too long for a facility like this.  But working together, we finally made it happen.”
Tester’s letter Secretary Shinseki appears below.


The Honorable Eric Shinseki
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I write to urge that you ensure that the VA’s FY 2011 budget submission contains sufficient construction funding to ensure that Phase II of the Billings, Montana, Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) may proceed without delay.
In January 2008, I worked with your predecessor to break the bureaucratic logjam that was delaying funding for Phase I of the new clinic.  The following month, then-Secretary Peake came to Montana.  After we toured the cramped and insufficient space occupied by the old clinic, he correctly prioritized construction of the new clinic. As a result, the VA broke ground on the new CBOC last November.

Today – just eleven months after groundbreaking – the VA will dedicate the new CBOC.  This project, though classified as “minor construction” in the VA budget, already has had major impact on veterans in Eastern Montana.  In the three weeks that this much-needed facility has been open, over 1,000 veterans have taken advantage of the new facility – a volume that would have been much more difficult to accommodate at the old facility.  This building is more than double the size of the old facility and allows veterans to receive an additional range of services that previously had to be provided either on a fee-for-service basis or more than 200 miles away at Ft. Harrison in Helena – neither of which are the preferred option for most Billings-area veterans.

However, there is more work to be done.  As you know, today’s dedication will herald the official completion of Phase I of the CBOC.   It is critically important that Phase II construction of the CBOC begin without delay so that a wide array of services such as ophthalmology, dental and cardiology may finally be co-located at the Clinic.  Consolidation of these services in one location will greatly improve the quality of care and convenience for veterans served by the Billings CBOC.  Therefore, I strongly urge you to ensure that funding for Phase II construction is included in the VA’s FY 2011 budget submission. 

Thank you very much for your consideration of this vital project.  I look forward to working with you to ensure that this CBOC is fully constructed and provides maximum benefit to Montana veterans as quickly as possible. 

Jon Tester
United States Senator