Tester delivers major victory for Montana veterans, announces VA will establish Vet Center in Helena

Senator: Vet Centers play critical role in addressing mental health care needs of veterans, service members, and their families

(U.S. Senate) – Delivering a major victory for Montana veterans, Senator Jon Tester today announced the VA will establish a Vet Center in Helena to better treat veterans, service members, and their families.

Vet Centers provide services in a confidential setting outside VA Health Care facilities. Services include mental health screenings, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol assistance, family counseling, employment assistance, education training, and other services to help veterans transition to civilian life.

After meeting with Montana veterans, Tester began his efforts to bring a Vet Center to Helena nearly five years ago.

“Vet Centers play a critical role in the recovery, rehabilitation, and counseling of combat veterans, service members, and their families,” Tester said. “The Helena Vet Center will provide local veterans with additional access to mental health care services and help the service members who are living with the unseen wounds of war.”

“Helena remains underserved in its scope of mental health resources for veterans and the Fort Harrison VA Medical Facility does not substitute for the unique services a Vet Center provides,” said Diane Carlson Evans, a Helena Vietnam Veteran. “I want to thank Senator Tester for his tireless advocacy for Montana veterans-his hard work is truly making a difference.”

In 2011, Tester highlighted the increased need for mental health care services for Montana veterans and began pushing the VA to establish a Vet Center in Helena.

Tester then personally brought VA Secretaries Eric Shinseki and Bob McDonald to Helena and hosted multiple listening sessions so local veterans could express the need for a Vet Center in the state’s capital.

In December, Tester successfully secured an additional $15 million in the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations Bill for VA Vet Centers across the nation, and earlier this year Tester pushed Secretary McDonald to establish a Veterans’ Center in Helena for local veterans.

Tester is the top Democrat on the subcommittee that funds the VA. He is also sponsoring the CARE for Reservists Act, which provides National Guard and Reservists veterans access to VA Vet Centers.

Currently, Helena veterans have to travel an over two hour round-trip to access the mental health care resources at the closest Vet Center.

In 2009, Tester secured funding for a VA Vet Centers in Kalispell and Great Falls.