Tester: Dysfunction in White House and VA Jeopardizing Veterans

Senator: President Must Decide to Empower Veterans or Political Interests

(U.S. Senate) – Dysfunction within the VA and turmoil in the Trump Administration is stalling progress on the bipartisan Caring for Our Veterans Act, Ranking Member Jon Tester told veterans during a hearing today on Capitol Hill.

During a joint Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing with several Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), Tester voiced his frustration with the uncertainty over Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin the leadership of the VA.

“The dysfunction in the White House has bled over to the VA,” said Tester. “The President needs to decide whether he is going to empower Secretary Shulkin to do his job or whether he is going to side with political interests like the Koch brothers who, by the way, I do not believe understand what our nation’s veterans are going through. We need to know who’s calling the shots. The stakes have never been higher. We have an obligation to this country and to the next generation of fighting men and women. We need to know, as policy makers in the legislative branch, who to hold accountable to those men and women.”

Tester, the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, worked closely with Republican Chairman Johnny Isakson to write the popular Caring for Our Veterans Act. The White House and the VA provided input on Tester and Isakson’s bill, but have yet to publicly support it despite overwhelming support from veterans, advocates and lawmakers.

“Johnny Isakson and I were hoping to get our Caring for Our Veterans Act out by Veterans Day [2017],” Tester said during today’s hearing. “It’s still not out yet. We need to move that bill. It’s the final piece of a puzzle of a lot of legislation that we have gotten done, from VA accountability, to taking care of the disability appeals backlog to now redoing the community care piece of the VA. Dysfunction in the administration has hindered our ability to move forward. It’s jeopardizing the ability of the VA to serve you, our nation’s veterans.”

Six of the nine VSOs presenting their priorities today strongly endorsed Tester and Isakson’s Caring for Our Veterans Act. Those organizations are just a few of the 26 military and service organizations that have endorsed the bill. Of the 21 organizations that presented their priorities to the joint Committees over the last month, 14 have come out in support of the bill.

More information about today’s hearing can be found online HERE and the four previous VSO hearings can be found HERE.