Senators earn A+ from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans

Grades based on support for G.I. bill, veterans' health care

(KALISPELL, Mont.) – Montana's two U.S. Senators today earned the highest grades possible from a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave an A+ to both Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester.  The grade was awarded based on the senators' support for this year's 21st Century G.I. Bill, and for adequately funding the Veterans Administration and mental health care for veterans.
“IAVA Action’s 2008 Congressional Report Card recognizes those lawmakers who refused to compromise on the most important issues facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  “From passing a new GI Bill to increasing VA funding by over $10 billion, the 110th Congress has made tremendous progress on behalf of America’s newest generation of heroes.  Senators Baucus and Tester received an A+ from IAVA Action, and we would like to thank them for their leadership on these critical issues.”
Over the last two years, Baucus and Tester pushed Congress to significantly increase funding for veterans, specifically for those who live in rural Montana.
In September, Baucus and Tester supported the VA Appropriations Bill, which funds the VA at the highest level in history.  The legislation also:

  • Sets aside $133 million to raise the VA's travel reimbursement rate for disabled veterans to 41.5-cents per mile.  It also freezes the monthly deductible veterans must pay at $15.44 per round trip.
  • Requires the VA to raise the income threshold for Priority 8 veterans so that more are able to get back into the VA's health care system.  Veterans earning more than about $28,000 in Montana and who have no service-connected disability have been excluded from the VA health system since 2003.  The measure increases the income limit to $30,200.
  • Adds $250 million for various pilot projects to improve health care services for veterans in rural America.

"Our brave men and women have laid their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Montanans and Americans. Fighting on behalf of Montana's veterans has always been one of my top priorities," Baucus said.  "Receiving this grade is a reminder that we are always working – and will never stop working – for the men and women who served our country. I’ll continue to work together with Jon to make sure our veterans receive the care they need and deserve."
"We've made good progress in the last two years in living up to the promises made to America's veterans,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.  "But we still have a long way to go.  It will take hard work and cooperation to make sure all veterans have the benefits they have earned."