Tester expanding mental health care for National Guardsmen, Reservists

Senator’s bill improves access to care, military readiness

Senator Jon Tester is fighting to improve the mental health care for Montana’s National Guardsmen and Reservists by expanding the period when they can receive help.

Reservists currently undergo annual health assessments to identify medical issues. Any follow-up treatment is done at the Reservist’s own expense with a civilian medical provider. Due to the cost, many Reservists do not get the needed follow-up treatments. The Defense Department only provides follow-up care if a Reservist is within 180 days of his or her scheduled deployment, yet mental health issues sometimes do not manifest for two years or more after a service member returns home.

Tester’s bill allows follow-up care regardless of whether the Reservist is nearing deployment, ensuring that service members have access to care and are prepared to serve.

“Montana’s Guardsmen and Reservists work hard to provide for their families while standing ready to defend our freedoms,” Tester said. “Too many Montana veterans suffer from injuries both seen and unseen, and my bill removes unnecessary barriers so our troops get the care they need when they need it.”

Tester noted that while military suicide rates have dropped slightly in recent months, the rate of suicides among service members continues to be well above the rate for civilians.

By spreading medical treatment and subsequent costs over a longer period, Tester’s bill allows service members to focus on training before their deployments.

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently held a veterans field hearing in Billings that focused on improving health care. He also introduced bipartisan legislation to protect the jobs of Guardsmen and Reservists when they are called to serve.

Tester’s bill is available online HERE.