Montanan testifies on Capitol Hill as Tester’s rural veterans health care bill is signed into law

Senator invites Karen Bohlinger to discuss traumatic brain injury

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester’s landmark legislation improving health care for America’s rural veterans was signed into law today, while on Capitol Hill, Tester and his colleagues heard testimony from a Montana witness on an issue facing more veterans every day.

Tester invited Karen Bohlinger, wife of Montana Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger, to testify today before the Veterans Affairs Committee on the challenges facing veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Mrs. Bohlingers’s son, a veteran, suffered a TBI while a Special Forces soldier deployed to Iraq.

Tester and his colleagues on the committee heard from Mrs. Bohlinger about her son’s experience in the VA health care system and questioned her on ways to improve treatment.

“They fought for us, protected our freedom.” Mrs. Bohlinger told the Committee.  “We need to protect them. And I would just say to you, what does my son miss the most?  Just working.  He’s a Montanan.  He wants to work.”

Mrs. Bohlinger’s written testimony is available online HERE.

After the hearing, Tester joined the President as he signed into law a bill containing Tester’s Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act.

The new law will improve care for all veterans in Montana and across rural America by:

  • Permanently securing the 41.5 cents-per-mile travel reimbursement for disabled veterans that Tester secured two years ago,
  • Establishing a grant program to fund Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and similar volunteer service organizations that operate “Vet Vans,” which transport veterans from their homes to VA facilities,
  • Expanding the VA’s ability to recruit and retain high quality health care providers in rural areas,
  • Strengthening oversight of health care and offering incentives for reliable high-quality standards,
  • Expanding the VA’s telehealth program and its ability to collaborate with the Indian Health Service and community organizations to provide medical services in rural communities.

“This is a big step forward that will improve health care for all of Montana’s veterans,” Tester said.  “And it’s a great example of finding solutions from the ground up.  We’ve still got work to do.  But listening to and working with Montana’s veterans, we were able to turn some common sense ideas into action, and strengthen health care for veterans across all of rural America.”

Tester’s bill is supported by several national veterans’ organizations, including: the Wounded Warrior Project, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Disabled Veterans of America.