Tester demands action on VA reform bill

Tester demands action on VA reform bill

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today challenged his colleagues to pass a comprehensive VA reform bill, saying that lawmakers who question the cost of taking care of veterans should first question the cost of going to war.

“Right now, we’re working in conference on this bill. We’re in the fourth week, there isn’t much to show,” Tester said. “Why? Because some Members of the conference committee are balking at cost. We just shipped about 800 troops to Iraq. I didn’t hear one person talk about costs. But when men and women come home with physical and mental health care needs, the cost somehow becomes an issue.”

Tester made his comments at a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on the state of VA healthcare. At the hearing, Tester questioned Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson about improvements in the timeliness of veterans’ care, the cost of providing care within the VA versus the private sector and ways to increase the number of VA medical professionals.

“Veterans demonstrated their best in the field, we need to demonstrate our best as policymakers,” said Tester, who secured a commitment from Gibson to continue Project ARCH, an initiative that allows eligible rural veterans in parts of Montana to receive care closer to home through a non-VA health care provider.

Tester is a member of the Congressional committee, known as a conference committee, charged with ironing out differences between the Senate’s and House of Representatives’ VA reform bills. The bills passed in the wake of reports that the VA mismanaged waiting lists for veterans seeking care, but some members of Congress have expressed concerns about their cost.

More details and differences between the Senate’s and House of Representative’s bills, as well as Tester’s veterans’ priorities, are available online HERE.

Tester has been a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee since he joined the Senate, making increasing veterans’ access to care a priority. The first bill he passed in 2007 successfully boosted the VA’s mileage reimbursement for disabled veterans from 11 cents to 41.5 cents per mile.

Tester also responded to the reports of mismanaged care at the VA by launching a statewide listening tour to hear directly from Montana veterans. His fourth listening session will be this Friday in Helena.

Video from today’s Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing is available online HERE. Tester is pushing the conference committee to pass a final VA reform bill this month.