Tester protecting veterans’ health care from budget cuts

Senator introduces bill to safeguard VA health care

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is making sure that veterans’ health care is protected in the face of potential budget cuts.

Tester recently introduced a bill clarifying that VA health care is exempt from any upcoming reductions in the federal budget.  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.  “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, it is currently unclear whether veterans’ health care could be part of the automatic cuts.  Tester’s bill clarifies that veterans’ health care will not be cut.

Veterans pension and disability compensation benefits are exempt from the automatic cuts.

Tester’s bill is supported by the VFW, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and AMVETS, who say that thanks to Tester’s efforts “veterans will not have to worry about whether or not critical services will be available.”

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 like Montana. 

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, most recently helped speed up the claims process for Montana veterans at Fort Harrison.  He has also helped put Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery on the path to national designation and established the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus in the past month.

Tester’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).  It is available online HERE.