Tester holds news conference to push better veterans’ health care to finish line

Senator and colleagues call for end to ‘political games’ to pass bipartisan bill

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Just before the nation commemorates Veterans Day, Senator Jon Tester today called on Congress to move past “political games” and pass bipartisan legislation to improve health care for veterans.

Tester is the author of the Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act.  The measure—which would improve health care for all veterans in Montana and across rural America—is included in a larger bill pending before the Senate.

Congress’s independent budget analysts say the improved veterans’ health care will increase direct government spending by only $1 million over the next ten years.

Still, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is currently blocking the bill—even though the legislation has the full backing of Republicans and Democrats on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Tester today joined Senators Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in a press conference calling on Coburn to allow a vote on the legislation.

“It’s our patriotic duty as Americans to make sure our country keeps our promises to our veterans, whether they live in big cities or rural communities,” Tester said.  “We worked together with veterans on this bipartisan bill to improve health care for rural veterans in Montana and across this country.  As we honor veterans this week, we need to put aside DC politics and do right by them.”

Several veterans’ service organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, are also calling on Coburn to allow a vote on the bill.

Tester’s Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act would improve mental health services, provide grants for innovative programs that improve health care for rural veterans and lock in the VA’s current 41.5-cents per mile travel reimbursement for disabled veterans.  Tester worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over the past two years to raise the rate to 41.5 cents per mile from 11 cents per mile.

Leading veterans’ organizations in Montana support Tester’s legislation, which is included in the Caregiver and Veterans Health Services Act (S. 1963).