Tester tapped for veterans’ conference committee

Senator named to panel to improve veterans’ access to care, hold VA accountable

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today was appointed to the Congressional committee tasked with crafting a compromise between Senate and House of Representatives bills that increase veterans’ access to care and improve accountability at the VA.

The Senate and House of Representatives each passed bills earlier this month to address the medical backlog and increase transparency at the VA. The more comprehensive Senate bill gives the VA more authority to hire needed healthcare professionals, allows veterans to seek care from outside the VA, improves the VA scheduling system and requires the VA to publish wait time goals for every VA medical center. The Senate bill passed 93 – 3.

Tester, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will serve alongside current Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and other lawmakers.

“This is a great opportunity to put veterans first,” Tester said. “Our final bill must help more veterans get the care they earned and build a foundation for future compromises that help us live up to our commitments to veterans. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a responsible solution.”

In the wake of the recent reports of mismanaged care at the VA, Tester proposed legislative fixes and launched a statewide listening tour to hear from Montana veterans about how to improve care at the VA. His second listening session will be held this Friday at Missoula College at 1:00 p.m. and his third will be held in Kalispell on Sunday at 1:15 pm. More information on this weekend’s sessions is available online HERE.

The House of Representatives’ bill is narrower in scope than the Senate bill. The Senate bill goes further in addressing oversight and transparency issues at the VA and includes provisions to better support rural and Native American veterans and survivors of military sexual assault.

The conference committee is expected to begin its work immediately.