Tester Features Montana Veterans in Second Edition of ‘Veterans Voices’ Series

Veterans Tell Their Stories in ‘Veterans Voices’ Project

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released a new edition of his #VeteransVoices video series featuring Montanans telling their own stories of service, struggle and success.

Tester’s Veterans Voices is a social media video series that puts the spotlight on veterans, their families, and advocates across Montana.

“Honoring the men and women who serve our country is not a partisan issue, but a bipartisan responsibility,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This video series lets Montana veterans tell their own stories in their own words. It’s my honor to help them tell their stories to raise awareness and help take another step towards delivering on the promise that was made to them when they signed up to serve our country.”

Veterans who are interested in any of the resources featured in Veterans Voices can reach out directly to those organizations or contact Tester’s office. Background on the veterans and organizations featured in Veterans Voices are below:

The University of Montana Veterans’ Education and Transition Services (VETS) Office

The University of Montana Veterans’ Education and Transition Services (VETS) Office helps student veterans apply for and get their G.I. Bill education benefits.

Daryl Lee is a retired Marine and now helps student veterans navigate their education benefits as a Program Coordinator at the VETS Office. Allen Harguess, Michael Nonemacher, and Tony Lin are all student veterans at the University of Montana and work part time in the VETS Office.

Tester’s bill to strengthen the G.I. Bill was signed into law, bolstering benefits, cutting red tape, providing additional resources for schools and getting rid of the arbitrary 15-year time limit for veterans to use or lose the benefits.

“One of the big things specifically for our office [in Senator Tester’s bill] is the increase in the amount per certification that we’re going to be getting,” said Lee. “That was a very happy moment when we heard about that. A little bit of that was cut in the past and to bring that back was really beneficial to us because that allows us to have the extra funding to be able to support veterans from our office. The budget is always a concern and anytime you can increase that even just a little bit and pay that forward to veterans is definitely useful.”

“As far as the bill’s concerned, I think it’s a long time coming in the fact that there shouldn’t have been the time limit,” said Harguess, an Air Force veteran and Media Arts major. “Our vets put in the service and the time and the sacrifice. They shouldn’t have a time limit to begin with. I’ve actually talked to quite a few vets who have actually said, ‘Now I don’t have to worry.’ It takes a load off of a lot of people’s minds.”

The Missoula Veterans Treatment Court

The Missoula Veterans Treatment Court take veterans out of the criminal court system and provides tailored mental health care and addiction treatment.

Brenda Desmond is the presiding Standing Master of the Veterans Treatment Court and oversees the court docket and treatment plans for all veterans in the Treatment Court program. Program coordinator Hannah Halden works with Standing Master Desmond, veterans, attorneys, treatment providers and clinicians to help manage participants’ treatment plans.

Tester’s Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act allows Veterans Treatment Courts to hire additional outreach specialists to work with the presiding judge to establish a rehabilitation program tailored to an individual veteran’s needs. Tester’s bill recently unanimously passed the U.S. Senate.

“I don’t see any more that we could be asking of Senator Tester’s office than what we’re already getting,” said Desmond. “And for a person who has so many issues regarding Montanans on his plate it is incredible to me how focused he is on Montana veterans. For him to have taken a national leadership position on veterans is wonderful for veterans of Montana.”

“Senator Tester sends a representative here to our court, and they attend, I think they most personally get to watch those success stories come through,” said Halden. “They always come to the graduation ceremonies with their letter prepared from Mr. Tester and present those to that graduating participant. They have this solid piece of, ‘Kudos to you, you finished the Treatment Court’ directly from Senator Tester.”

The Poverello Center

The Poverello Center in Missoula provides transitional housing for veterans.

Jill Bonny, Amy Allison Thomspon and Amber Gladney work with the Poverello Center and help provide a roof over the head of homeless veterans every day. Chris Phelps is a Navy veteran who has founding housing and support through the Poverello Center.

Tester recently helped the Poverello Center secure funding to provide more veterans with housing, counseling and career services.

“Senator Tester’s always been a big supporter of the Poverello Center,” said Thompson. “He’s been here for a tour when we moved into the new building and has always been willing to advocate on our behalf and provide letters of support [for grant funding] as well.”

“Senator Tester has been an outspoken proponent for our programs and has provided letters of recommendation in our grant reapplication process,” said Gladney.

All Veterans Voices videos can be found on Tester’s YouTube page on the #VeteransVoices playlist. The first edition of Veterans Voices can be found HERE.