Tester holds national roundtable with leaders of Veterans Service Organizations

Senator hears from veterans on employment, health care, and women veterans

(KALISPELL, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week convened a national roundtable to listen to veterans’ leaders share their experiences and offer Congress advice on the best ways to support Montana’s and America’s veterans.

Tester’s roundtable builds off his many listening sessions with Montana’s veterans.  This week’s forum, organized to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, focused on veterans impacted by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Improving health care, creating good jobs and helping female veterans were the main topics of conversation.

Kayla Williams, who joined the Army in the spring of 2000 to learn Arabic and later participated in the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said that she was particularly pleased by the roundtable’s focus on women veterans.

Tester recently supported legislation that will expand and improve VA healthcare services for women and require the VA to assess the effectiveness of their services and programs for women veterans.

“Listening to folks who work with veterans each and every day is the best way to learn what Congress can do to better serve them,” Tester said.  “I had the unique and valuable opportunity to hear directly from service organization leaders and I plan to use their comments to guide my work in the Senate.”

Tester also received a clear reminder that veterans return from war with injuries both seen and unseen.

“The effects of war don’t disappear when a mission is finished,” said Disabled American Veterans Executive Director Barry Jesinoski, a roundtable participant.  “We are grateful that Senator Tester stepped up for our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by bringing together critical organizations and discussing how we best provide care for our veterans.”

Tester this week also met with Holly Petraeus, the Director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and wife of Gen. David Petraeus, to discuss her role as an advocate for military families.

Tester is a powerful advocate for Montana veterans and Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  He recently highlighted health care hurdles for rural veterans in states like Montana.

Tester’s roundtable included representatives from the following veterans service organizations:

• Ike Puzon, Captain, USN, retired; Association of the United States Navy
• Barry Jesinoski, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans
• Ronald G. Young, Executive Director, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
• Randy Jennings, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States
• Tom Tarantino, Senior Legislative Associate, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
• COL Bob Norton, Military Officers Association of America
• John Driscoll, President and CEO, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
• Richard M. Green, Director, National Guard Association of the United States
• Michael Dakduk, Executive Director, Student Veterans of America
• Marshall Hanson, Legislative Director, National President, Reserve Officers Association
• Deirdre Parke Holleman, National President, The Retired Enlisted Association
• Kayla Williams, Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran, Veteran Advocate
• Christine Hill, Executive Vice President, Wounded Warrior Project