VA Committee Holds Hearing on Five of Tester's Bills

(U.S. Senate) – The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing on five bills introduced by Senator Jon Tester which are aimed at improving health care and benefits for Montana veterans.

Tester, Montana’s only member on the Committee, secured support for his legislation from veteran service organizations.

“These folks have served our country at great personal cost, and we owe it to them to make sure they get the best possible health care and the benefits they were promised,” Tester said. “They did their job, now Congress needs to do ours and move these bills along.”

Tester’s following bills received a hearing:

  • Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act – This bill permanently authorizes the VA to provide transportation to and from VA medical facilities for veterans. It would also reauthorize a grant program initially created by Tester in 2010 that would provide help to groups such as the Disabled American Veterans, who provide critical transportation services to veterans through volunteer drivers. These provisions are particularly important for veterans in rural states like Montana where the nearest facility could be hundreds of miles away.

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Assessment Act – This legislation would require an independent assessment by medical experts of the VA’s process for evaluating veterans who have experienced TBI. This bill was introduced in response to a Montana veteran’s case which gained media attention. The VA now reports that at least 79 veterans in Montana who were diagnosed with TBI between 2007 and 2015 did not receive a proper medical examination to determine their eligibility for benefits.

  • Maximizing Efficiency and Improving Access to Providers at the VA Act – This bipartisan bill requires the VA to begin hiring medical scribes so VA doctors can spend less time filling out paperwork and more time working directly with veterans.

  • VA Dental Insurance Reauthorization Act – This bipartisan bill reauthorizes a successful program that allows veterans, survivors and their dependents to purchase dental insurance plans at minimal expense.
  • Provisions of the CARE for Reservists Act – This provision would allow all members of the Selected Reserve who have behavioral health issues or psychological trauma to receive mental health care at Vet Centers (like the one Tester recently secured for Helena) regardless of whether they’ve seen combat.

A Committee vote on these five bills is not yet scheduled.