At Tester’s request, VA Secretary agrees to visit Montana and expand Billings VA Clinic

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Responding to a request by Senator Jon Tester, the new U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs today agreed to visit Montana as early as next month to tour the state's VA facilities.

During a meeting today with Tester, Secretary James B. Peake also said he will relocate and expand the Billings VA clinic from 10,000 square feet to 16,000 square feet.

"It was a good meeting that will ultimately help a lot of veterans and their families here Montana," Tester said. "Secretary Peake and I checked politics at the door and worked together to do what's right for the folks who served our country."

Secretary Peake, the former Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, was confirmed by the Senate last month.

As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Tester invited Peake to Montana late last year to show him firsthand the challenges of providing health care to vets who live in rural and "frontier" parts of the country.

Another concern Tester heard repeatedly over the past year was the inadequate size of the VA Clinic in Billings—Montana's largest city.  Tester worked closely with the VA to move the facility from its current location at 2345 King   Avenue West to a new location in Billings.  The new location has not yet been determined.

Peake's approval today of the new clinic was the next-to-last step in securing the new location.  Due to the size of the new clinic, Congress must give its final approval, which is expected in 30 days.

Tester also spoke today with Peake about the concerns he has heard from Montana vets during his 12 listening sessions over the past year.  Just last week Tester held crowded listening sessions for vets in Helena and Hamilton.

"I told Secretary Peake what I'm hearing in Montana," Tester said.  "I told him about the issues we need to put on the front burner.  He listened and he's taking action.  It was a good chance to take what I've heard over the last couple weeks and bring it to the highest level of the VA."