Tester outraged over VA mental health center closure, announces VA Secretary coming to Montana

“It needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed now”

(U.S. SENATE) – In response to news that VA Montana is temporarily closing its mental health center, Senator Jon Tester is bringing VA Secretary Robert McDonald to Montana.

Tester announced that Secretary McDonald will visit Montana this spring. During that visit Tester will demand that the VA address chronic workforce shortages that forced the closure of a mental health facility at Fort Harrison.

Tester today hand-delivered a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald, in which he shared the frustration of Montana veterans who have experienced barriers to health care primarily because of the ongoing medical workforce shortages at the VA.

“I heard loud and clear from Montana veterans that the care and services provided by this facility would be absolutely critical. And until now, they have been. That is a big problem,” Tester wrote. “It needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed now.”

On Friday, Tester raised concerns about the mental health facility closure at Fort Harrison during a phone call with VA Montana interim director, John Ginnity.

Tester also followed up on a letter he wrote last month to Secretary McDonald reinforcing the need for a permanent director for VA Montana, a position that has been vacant for eight months.

“Montana veterans need the leadership of a permanent director at Fort Harrison, and we need answers to a medical staffing crisis that gets worse every single day,” Tester wrote.

Details of the Secretary’s visit are still being worked out with the VA, but Tester is fully committed to highlighting the need for improved access to care for Montana veterans.

“I look forward to hosting you,” Tester wrote to Secretary McDonald. “And though one of the primary focuses of the trip will be to provide you a deeper understanding and appreciation for how staffing issues are impacting care for veterans in my state, I cannot stress enough that this matter requires immediate attention.”

Tester, who helped author the VA reform bill that passed Congress last summer, has introduced a number of bills this year to expand access to care and improve treatment for veterans and their families.

Tester’s letter to VA Secretary McDonald is available online HERE.

Veterans who are seeking treatment at the mental health facility at Fort Harrison should reach out to their local providers or call the VA crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.