Tester’s VA, Military Construction Funding Bill Takes Major Step Forward

Senator’s Bill Will Make Critical Investments for Montana Veterans, National Security

(U.S. Senate)- As veterans across Montana continue to face obstacles to care and as national security threats continue around the world, Senator Jon Tester’s bill to strengthen national security and support those who have served took a major step forward today after the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed his 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.

“This bipartisan bill makes critical investments that will strengthen our national security and honor our commitment to the folks who have bravely served our nation,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.

Tester helped write the funding bill that increases investments at the VA by $3.4 billion. The bill supports VA facilities, VA medical services, and hires additional staff to improve care and reduce wait times for Montana veterans.

Tester’s VA funding bill provides an additional $495 million to expand and improve VA facilities and an additional $1 billion to increase medical services for female veterans, homeless veterans, medical research, and veterans needing long-term care.

Tester’s bill also includes $46 million to hire 300 new VA claim processors and 240 additional employees for the Board of Veterans Appeals specifically to address the current VA disability claim backlog. These additional resources will reduce the amount of time veterans wait after submitting a disability appeal to the VA.

The bill will additionally create a $7 billion Medical Community Care account that will help ensure that rural veterans and veterans needing specialized care are able to access health care treatment outside the VA system through the Veterans Choice Program.

“This bill allows us to make progress in tackling the obstacles to care that too many veterans still face,” Tester said. “When these brave men and women signed up to serve, we promised to have their backs when they returned. This bill upholds that commitment.”

Tester’s bill also funds military construction projects across the nation-including the Missile Maintenance Dispatch facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base. This facility will allow Malmstrom to receive a new fleet of Blackhawk helicopters by 2019 to replace the Vietnam-era H-1 Hueys currently in use at the base.

“Investing in our nation’s military facilities strengthens our national security and increases the readiness of our troops to protect our country from threats,” Tester said.

The Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations bill was passed without opposition by the Appropriations Committee and will now go to the Senate.