Senate overwhelmingly passes Tester’s measures for veterans

Senator also chosen as lead negotiator on final veterans’ bill

(U.S. SENATE) – Despite dysfunction and partisanship in Washington D.C., Senator Jon Tester today praised the Senate’s passage of key legislation to “better live up to our promises to America’s veterans.”

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which includes several specific provisions by Tester.

The bill also funds better health care for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and research for “invisible wounds of war” such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

“While some folks here are content throwing up roadblocks up at every turn, my commitment to veterans is far too important to allow measures like this to take a back seat,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Appropriations Committees.  “This bipartisan bill is a powerful step toward better serving veterans in Montana and across the country, and I’m pleased we got the bipartisan support from the Senate this bill deserves.”

The legislation includes Tester’s language calling on the calling on the VA to allow rural cemeteries like the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery to become VA National cemeteries.

“This means we are one step closer to having a national veterans cemetery in the state of Montana,” said Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy. “I’m thrilled that Jon has taken the bull by the horns and fought so hard for the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery.”

Tester today was chosen to serve as a negotiator to write a final version of the bill with input from the House of Representatives. The final bill will have to be approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives before going to the president for his signature.

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act also includes Tester’s specific language:
• Expressing concern over delayed improvements to transportation for veterans who live in rural and frontier communities.
• Urging the VA to invest more resources on contracting with local private providers to improve accessibility to mental health care and tele-medicine.

The bipartisan measure also:
• Improves health care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  The VA estimates the number of new veterans will reach exceed 500,000 in 2012.
• Improves treatment for mental health, brain injury, spinal cord injury, burn injury and polytrauma injuries.
• Improves housing for homeless veterans
• Improves support for families of veterans by boosting the VA Caregivers initiative.
• Improves health care specifically for women veterans
• Improves housing for military families.