Tester’s measure for rural homeless veterans wins unanimous approval

Committee also approves Senator’s measure to streamline VA care for Guard & Reserve troops

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today overwhelmingly approved a measure by Senator Jon Tester to create job opportunities and better housing for homeless veterans in Montana and across rural America.

Tester’s amendment—approved unanimously by the Committee—requires at least five percent of certain federal grants to go to rural and frontier areas. The grants will fund:

  • Better housing facilities for homeless veterans (for facilities like Helena’s Willis Cruse House and Billings’ Independence Hall).
    Job training for homeless veterans.
  • Veteran homelessness is often seen as an urban problem. But the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that five percent of homeless veterans live in rural and frontier communities.

Today the Veterans’ Affairs Committee also approved a Tester amendment to automatically enroll National Guard and Reserve troops in the VA health care system as soon as they return home from serving at least a year in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Tester’s amendment will simplify the demobilizing process for Guardsmen and Reservists, allowing them to return to their homes and families more quickly, while ensuring their health care needs are met.

“Today, we’re asking far more of our Guard and Reserve troops than ever before,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans Affairs’ Committee. “These are concrete, common sense steps to make sure that once these folks return home to Montana, they get the health care they’ve earned.”

Tester’s amendments build on his Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act. That bill unanimously passed the Senate in November.

The bill creates stronger partnerships between health providers and the VA in frontier communities. It also provides grants for innovative programs that improve care for rural veterans, and locks in the VA’s current travel reimbursement for disabled veterans.