Tester: Veterans need Congress to do its job

Senator: Congress can’t hold VA accountable if we don’t provide the tools it needs

(U.S. Senate) – During a hearing today on the VA’s budget with VA Secretary Bob McDonald, Senator Jon Tester called out his colleagues for blocking the VA from improving veterans’ access to quality care.

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, told the other members of his committee that Congress has to give the VA the tools and resources it needs before it can start criticizing the agency for failing veterans.

“It is important for us to hold the agency accountable,” Tester said. “It’s also important for us to listen to the people that are at the head of it and make sure we give them the tools that they need to be successful – and then hold them accountable.”

Tester pointed out that multiple bills he has authored to improve veterans access to care, including provisions of his Docs for Veterans Act, have passed out of the committee but are still waiting for a vote on the Senate floor.

Secretary McDonald agreed with the Senator that the VA would be better suited to meet the growing needs of veterans if Congress would pass legislation to help the department recruit and retain qualified medical providers. Secretary McDonald also asked Congress to provide the VA with greater budget flexibility, something that Tester has been advocating for.

Tester will soon conclude his Veterans’ Choice outreach tour to hear from veterans and care providers in 28 rural Montana communities about issues they are experiencing with the Veterans’ Choice Program.