Tester, VA Secretary host veterans’ listening sessions in Helena and Missoula

Day one of Secretary’s Montana visit focuses on doctor recruitment and rural and student veterans

(MONTANA)-Senator Jon Tester and VA Secretary Bob McDonald hosted a pair of veterans’ listening sessions on the first day of their Montana tour.

Tester brought McDonald to Montana to hear directly from veterans about the staffing shortages at the VA, changes made under last summer’s Veteran’s Choice Act, and how to improve care for rural and student veterans.

“Montana veterans face unique challenges and it’s important that the VA Secretary hear directly from them about their experiences with the VA,” Tester said. “The VA needs to deliver the access to care our veterans have earned. It’s time to take what we heard today and make essential changes to the VA to improve care for Montana veterans.”

The first listening session at Fort Harrison in Helena addressed the staffing shortages at the VA which have increased wait times for veterans seeking care. Tester and McDonald also heard about the increasing demand for mental health services at the VA. Before the listening session, Tester and McDonald toured the temporarily closed VA Mental Health Center to highlight the negative impacts staffing shortages have had on Montana veterans.

Tester and McDonald then traveled to the University of Montana in Missoula to discuss with student veterans the hardships many younger veterans face as they reintegrate into civilian life. They also toured the Neural Injury Center at the University of Montana and the VA’s Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Missoula.

On Wednesday, Tester and McDonald will host a listening session at the Billings Public Library and then tour the Billings VA Health Care Center.

This is the third time Tester has brought a VA Secretary to Montana to hear concerns of Montana veterans. He brought Secretary James Peake to Montana in 2008, and Secretary Eric Shinseki to Montana in 2011.