Tester calls on VA, Labor Dept. to improve work with volunteer groups

Senator wants agencies to cut through red tape, increase outreach

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is working to better connect the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor with volunteer organizations to make the lives of Montana’s former service members a little easier.

Tester is calling on the agencies to find more ways to work with volunteer groups that help veterans train for jobs and live more independent lives. Many veterans receive assistance from volunteer and service groups, but the organizations often have a difficult time reaching formal agreements with the VA to provide services.

Tester, who recently got the VA and Department of Health and Human Services to collaborate more effectively, says getting rid of unnecessary obstacles and improving communication will allow more veterans to receive needed services and timely benefits.

“While we must never allow veterans’ safety, security or services to be compromised, there continues to be too much bureaucratic red tape that impedes the ability of trained volunteers to partner effectively with government agencies on behalf of veterans,” Tester wrote VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

“I request that your agencies identify additional ways you can more effectively partner with community service organizations in Montana to improve upon services provided to veterans and their families,” Tester added.

Through the Corporation for National and Community Service and other initiatives, the government partners with state and local volunteers, non-profit organizations, schools, and faith-based groups to help veterans. In Montana, the agency supports nearly 8,000 people, who also help children, military families and the elderly.

“Senior Corps programs in Montana have made a strong commitment to supporting our nation’s troops, Veterans and military families, and our volunteers have been working hand in hand with our communities for over 35 years,” said Senior Corps Program Manager Colleen Baldwin. “I appreciate Senator Tester’s efforts and look forward to more opportunities to provide volunteer support services for our nation’s Veterans and their families.”

In addition to recently getting the VA and Health and Human Services to collaborate more effectively, Tester last week awarded lost service medals to three Montana veterans.

Tester’s letter to VA Secretary Shinseki and Labor Secretary Solis