Senate panel approves Tester provisions to improve veterans’ quality of life

Senator’s measures increase veterans’ transportation options, expand access to care for survivors of military sexual assault

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester continues to strengthen his record of improving the quality of life for Montana’s veterans.

A Senate panel today approved multiple Tester provisions that will help more Montana veterans access the care and support they need. One measure, a priority for Tester, reauthorized a Department of Veterans Affairs initiative to hire drivers to transport veterans, such as those living in rural areas, to VA health care facilities.

“Rural veterans earned the same level of care as veterans from urban areas,” said Tester, who noted that the initiative will complement the transportation services provided by the Disabled American Veterans. “Providing them with reliable and efficient transportation ensures that they get the care they earned and that we live up to the promises this nation made to them.”

The Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee also approved Tester-supported measures to expand access to care for survivors of military sexual assault. Among the measures are provisions to:

  • Extend counseling and treatment to more service members who suffered sexual trauma,
  • Require the VA to provide a case officer to veterans seeking compensation for a disability based on military sexual trauma, and
  • Provide those veterans with greater opportunity to present evidence in support of their claim

Tester, who recently introduced the Rural Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, also hailed passage of legislation he authored to reauthorize the VA’s Health Professional Scholarship Program. This initiative brings more doctors and nurses into the VA to care for veterans, and helps address the chronic shortage of VA medical professionals working in rural areas.

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is a long-time advocate for Montana’s veterans. He recently took the VA to task over its response to military sexual assault and met with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to reduce the department’s disability claims backlog.

The Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee today also approved legislation to increase veterans’ cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), support homeless veterans, and improve veterans’ jobs initiatives.