Tester, Bohlinger bring Montana veterans’ issues directly to  VA Secretary

Senator and Lieutenant Governor follow up recent listening session with high-level meeting in Washington

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester and Republican Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger this week followed through on their promise to share the concerns they heard at a recent listening session in Montana directly with the U.S. Secretary of Veterans' Affairs.

Tester invited Bohlinger, a former Marine, to a meeting with U.S. Veterans' Affairs Secretary James Peake in Washington.  Tester and Bohlinger hosted a listening session for Montana veterans in Billings several weeks ago.

During their meeting with Peake, Tester and Bohlinger highlighted several "front and center" issues facing Montana veterans.  They discussed Congress' recent decision to invest $250 million to improve health care for America's rural veterans, asking Peake to specifically make sure that Montana "gets its fair share."

Tester and Bohlinger also urged Peake to establish a third Vet Center in Montana.  Vet Centers provide counseling and outreach services to all veterans who served in any combat zone. Services are also available for their family members for military-related issues.  There are currently two Vet Centers in Montana, in Missoula and Billings.  Both have seen a tremendous increase in the number of veterans seeking services in recent years. 

"We've got to put partisanship aside when it comes to serving our veterans, and I'm glad to see that happened again," said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.  "John and I took the opportunity to make sure that the needs and views of Montana's veterans are front and center when the VA makes big decisions."

Earlier this year, Tester invited Secretary Peake to Montana to "see for himself the challenges of Montana veterans."  As a result of that visit, Peake moved forward with plans to significantly expand the VA Clinic in Billings.

"Because of that visit, Senator Tester was able to bring a $25 million health care facility to Billings that is now under construction," Bohlinger said.