Tester Reaches Across the Aisle to Outline VA Priorities

Senator Meets with Republican Counterpart, Prepares to Take Top Role on Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today met with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) to outline his priorities for veterans in advance of taking over as the committee’s Ranking Member in January.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Republicans, Democrats, and Independents on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to hold the VA accountable, improve care, and ensure we are delivering on this nation’s commitment to our veterans,” Tester said. “I have a great relationship with Chairman Isakson, and I am excited to get to work on behalf of Montana’s veterans and their families.”

Tester’s priorities for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee include reforming the Veterans’ Choice Program, streamlining duplicative care in the community programs, strengthening accountability, and addressing medical workforce shortages at the VA.

Tester also emphasized that he will work closely with Veteran Service Organizations-like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America-to increase timely access to care at the VA and increase opportunities for veterans after they leave the armed services.

Tester and Isakson worked together earlier this year to craft the Veterans First Act, a bipartisan bill to fix the VA’s Choice Program, bring more accountability and transparency to the VA, and enhance benefits and care for more veterans and their families. The Veterans First Act was unanimously passed by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, but was never brought up for a vote on the Senate floor.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester will be responsible for holding the VA accountable to veterans across the country-including overseeing the confirmation process of the next VA Secretary and holding regular hearings on critical issues facing veterans.

After his meeting with Chairman Isakson, Tester took to the Senate floor to reassure veterans that he will oppose any efforts to privatize or otherwise dismantle the VA. Tester expressed concerns that President-elect Trump is being advised by a Koch Brothers-backed organization, Concerned Veterans for America, which supports privatization of the VA. Tester told his colleagues that efforts to privatize and dismantle the VA will lead to longer wait times for veterans, and higher costs for taxpayers.