Tester Secures Wins for Montana Veterans in 2018 Funding Bill

Ranking Member’s Provisions for Rural, Women, Elderly Veterans Included in Funding Deal

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester went to the mat for Montana veterans, securing meaningful investments for rural, women and elderly veterans.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the VA, Tester worked with Republicans to ensure the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill improves veterans’ timely access to health care and benefits.

“This bipartisan agreement will improve the lives of women, rural and elderly veterans across Montana,” said Tester. “It’s our responsibility to make sure our veterans have access to the health care and benefits they have earned. So after days of tough negotiations, I’m proud this bill is taking a step in the right direction to make sure we’re upholding the promises our country made to those who fought for our freedoms.”

In addition to securing funding to build the long-awaited Southwest Montana Veterans Home in Butte, Tester authored many other veterans related provisions in the omnibus appropriations bill, including those that will:

  • Provide additional funding for VA’s delivery of gender-specific health care for women veterans, consistent with Tester’s Deborah Sampson Act
  • Establish a pilot program that will bring former military medics and corpsmen to rural VA facilities to work as Physician Assistants in exchange for tuition assistance, which is modeled after Tester’s Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act
  • Expand access to mental health care for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, a part of Tester’s Honor Our Commitment Act
  • Increase funding for the VA’s Office of Rural Health to help rural veterans access VA health care and benefits. 
  • Hire additional claims processors and appellate staff to tackle the backlog of disability claims and appeals and prevent future backlogs. 
  • Include additional funding for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which helps prevent homelessness among veterans and their families. 
  • Address challenges with the Beneficiary Travel Office, including filling vacancies and improving kiosks to help fix the delays in reimbursements for veterans who must travel to receive VA care. 

Tester also fought back proposals to cut the Caregiver Support Program and reduce hours at medical facilities in Glendive and Miles City.

This appropriations bill will fund the government through the end of Fiscal Year 2018.

The House has passed this bill and the Senate is scheduled to vote on it over the next couple of days.