Tester meets with Acting VA Secretary

Senator pushes Gibson for timely answers to VA scandal

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today bent the ear of Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson over the recent VA scandal and the hiring of the next director of VA Montana.

Tester’s meeting with Gibson was their first face-to-face encounter since Gibson took over for former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in May. Their discussion focused on ways to fill workforce shortages and fix scheduling issues that keep many veterans from getting timely access to care.

Gibson also told Tester that investigators continue to scrutinize reports of mismanaged care at the VA, with reports due later this summer from the department’s independent watchdog.

“Veterans in Montana are demanding the high-quality health care they earned,” said Tester, who held three veterans’ listening sessions in Montana this month. “Secretary Gibson assured me that investigators are working diligently to get to the bottom of the VA’s problems, and that he is taking strong action to address the department’s issues and improve access to care.”

Tester also emphasized the need to move quickly to find a strong replacement for former VA Montana Director Christine Gregory, who stepped down in May. Gibson told Tester the VA was moving as quickly as possible to vet candidates, with a final recommendation likely this summer.

Tester has been aggressively working to address access to health care issues for veterans in the wake of the VA scandal. In addition to proposing legislative fixes and backing reform measures that increase accountability at the VA, he launched a statewide listening tour to hear from Montana veterans. He held his first three listening sessions in Anaconda, Missoula and Kalispell.

Tester has also been named to the Congressional conference committee that is hammering out a compromise between VA reform bills passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The committee’s first meeting was held on Tuesday.

Gibson is a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. Before joining the VA as Shinseki’s deputy this year, he served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army and led the United Services Organization (USO).