Tester introduces veterans’ healthcare package

Senator’s bipartisan measures address concerns heard during statewide listening tour

(U.S. Senate) – Following through on his promise to address key concerns heard on last summer’s statewide veterans listening tour, Senator Jon Tester introduced a number of measures to improve access to quality health care for veterans and their families.

Tester, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the CHAMPVA Children’s Care Protection Act, the Disabled Veterans Travel Reimbursement Act, the Access to Appropriate Immunizations for Veterans Act and the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

A description of each bill is available below.

“Montanans serve in our nation’s military at a higher rate than almost any other state. In exchange for their extraordinary service to our nation, we promised to care for them and their families,” Tester said. “By putting partisan politics aside, we’ll do right by our veterans and get these bills signed into law.”

Senator Tester recently took over a leadership role on the subcommittee tasked with funding the VA.

Tester’s bills are supported by the Military Officers Association of America, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Following reports of gross mismanagement at the VA, Tester held eight veterans listening sessions across Montana to gather information and propose policy solutions to chronic VA problems.

CHAMPVA Children’s Care Protection Act

CHAMPVA – a health insurance program administered by the VA – currently doesn’t allow children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ policies. Tester’s bipartisan bill raises the maximum age, bringing CHAMPVA in line with private insurance policies.

“MOAA strongly supports VA-sponsored health coverage for eligible adult children of CHAMPVA beneficiaries,” said retired Vice Admiral Norb Ryan President of the Military Officers Association of America. “Such coverage is mandated in law to be made available for every other qualifying adult child across the nation and only a technical adjustment to the VA statute is needed to extend it to the grown kids of our nation’s heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”

“This legislation is critical to ensure that dependent children of severely disabled veterans are afforded the same health care protection as all other children,” said Carl Blake Associate Executive Director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. “It is simply unacceptable that the only children who do not have the benefit of extended health care coverage are those children of the men and women who have sacrificed the greatest.”

“DAV supports this measure and salutes Senators Tester, Murray and Heller for their dedication to not only the men and women who served, but also their families who sacrificed right alongside them,” said DAV (Disabled American Veterans) National Commander Ron Hope. “Fixing CHAMPVA eligibility ensures that the children of veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as children of severely ill and injured veterans, receive the same benefits that their civilian counterparts already enjoy.”

Disabled Veterans Travel Reimbursement Act

Tester’s bipartisan bill addresses a loophole in the VA’s travel reimbursement policies by reimbursing severely disabled veterans who seek in-patient care at VA rehabilitation programs.

The bill was inspired by Roy Wheat, a blind veteran from Helena who was denied travel reimbursement to a blind care center in Tacoma, Washington.

“The only places where I can get the care I need are outside of Montana,” Wheat said. “Senator Tester’s bill will help a lot of vets I know who want to access the care they earned, but can’t afford to travel thousands of miles to get it.”

Access to Appropriate Immunizations for Veterans Act

Tester’s legislation promotes more timely and appropriate vaccinations for veterans, placing a greater emphasis on preventive care.

“The VFW thanks Senator Tester for introducing the Access to Appropriate Immunizations for Veterans Act,” said Ray Kelley National Legislative Director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). “Vaccination is one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent disease, and it is long overdue that VA offer the full complement of immunizations recommended by the CDC to every veteran they treat.”

Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

Building on the work of former Senator John Walsh, Tester’s bill offers several measures to improve mental healthcare and suicide prevention for American service members.

“IAVA thanks the Senate leaders for taking initiative on this vital issue for the veteran community,” said Paul Rieckhoff founder and CEO of IAVA. “Combating veteran suicide has been a top priority for IAVA this year. When passed, this bill will ensure our veterans receive the top quality mental healthcare they deserve, most specifically by implementing evaluation programs to assess the success of mental health and suicide prevention programs at DoD and the VA. Reversing the suicide trend among veterans requires more than one helping hand. This bill empowers the VA to collaborate with VSOs and nonprofit mental health organizations to combat veteran suicide. We urge Congress to move quickly on this legislation and put their partisanship aside. Lives are on the line. IAVA expects to see the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act receive expedited consideration and unanimous support in the full Senate very soon.”