Tester statement on VA reform compromise

Senator: ‘Good to see politics set aside so veterans can get the care they earned’

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today released the following statement after Senate and House of Representatives leaders compromised on a VA reform bill that will increase veterans’ access to care and hold VA employees more accountable:

“Compromise can be a dirty word in Washington, but it’s good to see politics set aside so veterans can get the care they earned. Negotiations weren’t easy, but ultimately folks came together to increase veterans’ access to care and put the VA on notice that our military men and women deserve better. This bill is good for veterans in Montana and nationwide, and I look forward to seeing it become law.”

Tester, a member of the conference committee that negotiated the final reform bill, said the bill includes several of his veterans’ priorities:

  • Extending Project ARCH – a successful pilot program that has allowed rural veterans in Montana and other states to seek care outside the VA system
  • Increasing the cap for student loan repayments and bolstering other recruitment incentives so the VA can better compete for skilled medical personnel
  • Bringing more accountability to the VA by allowing the department to fire incompetent managers more quickly
  • Building the long-term capacity of the VA to better connect veterans to the quality care they have earned in a more timely manner

The compromise will be voted on in the Senate and House this week. It includes funds for veterans’ choice cards that will let more veterans seek care outside the VA system, for the VA to hire more doctors and nurses, and for new and expanded VA facilities. It also reforms how the VA evaluates employees and conducts reviews of VA facilities and personnel.

The reform bill’s future was in doubt last week after conference committee negotiations broke down. In response, Tester took to the Senate floor and called on Congress to reach a compromise.

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has been actively pushing for lawmakers to compromise. He also launched a statewide veterans listening tour around Montana after reports of mismanagement at the VA earlier this year.