Senate approves Tester plan to help families of fallen soldiers

Senator’s amendment will help families attend memorial services

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Senate has approved a measure by Senator Jon Tester to help American families attend memorial services for their loved ones killed in action.

Tester’s amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill would allow the U.S. Defense Department to assist families with transportation expenses when travelling to a loved one’s memorial service.  Currently, the Department can help with travel to burial services but not memorial services.

“Our troops and our veterans have earned the respect and admiration of a grateful nation,” said Tester, a member of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees funding for the Defense Department.  “But the families of folks who serve this country have earned our nation’s support and respect as well.  This amendment is an effort to recognize the sacrifice that comes along with having a loved one serve in the Armed Forces.”

Tester’s effort comes after he secured a plane ticket for a Montanan attending his son’s 2008 memorial service in Arizona.  Tester coordinated the travel with a non-profit group because the Defense Department was unable to provide assistance.

Tester’s memorial travel amendment is supported by American Gold Star Mothers, the organization of mothers of servicemembers who have been killed in action.

The Senate approved the Defense Authorization Bill, with Tester’s amendment, Thursday night with a vote of 87-7.  The measure already has been approved by the House of Representatives.

Tester is Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Earlier this year, he authored the Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, which would improve care for the more than 100,000 veterans living in Montana.  The bill would improve mental health services for veterans, provide grants for innovative programs that improve health care for rural veterans, and lock in the current travel reimbursement for disabled veterans, secured by Tester.  The bill has cleared the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.