Tester’s Veterans’ Choice Fix Clears Another Hurdle and Heads to Senate Floor

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester’s legislation to fix the Veterans Choice Program and improve access to health care for Montana veterans today cleared another hurdle, and may soon be debated on the Senate floor.

Provisions of Tester’s bill, the Improving Care in the Community Act, are included in the larger bipartisan Veterans First Act that was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“The Choice Program is not working for Montana veterans, and I will continue to push this bipartisan fix through the Senate as quickly as possible,” Tester said. “My bill will increase veterans’ access to care, reduce wait times, and uphold the commitment our nation has made to the men and women who have served.”

Tester’s bill will provide the VA with the flexibility to work more directly with community providers to deliver care to veterans, and eliminate many of the bureaucratic hurdles that prevent veterans from accessing care in a timely manner. The bill also contains provisions from Tester’s DOCS for Veterans Act and Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act.

Other than Tester’s fix to the VA Choice Program, the Senate VA reform bill contains the following provisions Tester authored:
Extends additional residency positions in the VA.
Bolsters VA efforts to recruit more licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.
Addresses leadership vacancies that remain prevalent across the VA.
Expands services for homeless veterans and increases Native American access to the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.
Expands VA caregiver services and extends caregiver support services for folks providing assistance to veterans of all ages.
Requires stronger opioid prescription guidelines for health providers and patients.
Increases research into the health conditions of descendants of veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Promotes more timely and appropriate vaccinations for veterans.
• Recognizes members of the National Guard and Reserve who have served for more than 20 years, but never deployed, as “veterans.”