Tester on passage of VA reform bill: ‘Our work doesn’t stop’

Senator served on conference committee that negotiated final compromise bill

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after the Senate passed a VA reform bill and sent it to the President to be signed into law:

“Passing this bill is a major step to improving veterans’ access to care while holding VA officials more accountable. But our work doesn’t stop today. Our nation’s veterans earned high-quality care, and we must strengthen the VA and hold it accountable over coming weeks, months and years to make sure it cares for our veterans in a manner that honors their service and sacrifice.”

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, served on the conference committee that negotiated the final reform bill.

Tester made sure the bill reflected the needs of rural veterans and addressed many of the concerns voiced by Montana veterans at the Senator’s listening sessions across the state, primarily the need to increase access to timely care through additional medical personnel, investments in VA facilities and improved scheduling practices.

Included in the bill were Tester priorities to:

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

Tester this week also voted to confirm VA Secretary Robert McDonald, who replaces former VA Secretary Erik Shinseki.