Tester Holds Roundtable Discussion with Leading Veterans Service Organizations on Supporting Veterans Nationwide

Chairman: “This week, we continued the critical conversation of how to meet the growing needs of veterans and their families.”

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester this week led a roundtable discussion to hear directly from many of the nation’s leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) on how Congress can best meet the evolving needs of veterans and their families.

Tester hosted advocates from The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, The Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

“This week, we continued the critical conversation of how to meet the growing needs of veterans and their families,” said Chairman Tester. “Recent events in Afghanistan have hit many veterans hard, and it’s more important than ever that we have modern infrastructure, quality health care, and timely benefits to provide veterans the services they need and earned. While we’ve made a lot of progress this Congress, there is much work to be done. Together, we will continue to seek the support of our veteran partners in combatting the delta variant, protecting those at risk of homelessness, and providing veterans of all generations suffering from toxic exposure their due benefits.”

In light of the surging delta variant and increases in COVID-19-related hospitalizations nationwide, the Chairman and veterans’ stakeholders discussed supporting veterans amid the ongoing pandemic—especially those who are unhoused or at-risk of homelessness. Tester specifically highlighted his comprehensive Building Solutions for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Act of 2021, a bill to ensure that ending-homelessness organizations have the necessary funding and support to continue serving veterans as the pandemic carries on and to avoid derailing their pre-pandemic progress toward effectively ending veterans homelessness.

The Senator further engaged veterans’ advocates in a constructive dialogue to address the biggest challenges facing post-9/11 veterans, including providing for veterans exposed to toxins during their service. VSOs lent their support for Tester’s Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act—historic legislation allowing veterans affected by toxic exposure, including 3.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, to obtain immediate and lifelong access to VA health care.

Earlier this month, Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran reaffirmed their commitment to working with the VA to ensure veterans who served in Afghanistan receive the care, benefits, and support they have earned. During the roundtable, VSOs underscored the critical need to provide veterans and servicemembers with mental health services, and called for the continued implementation of the Senators’ bipartisan Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.

As a longtime advocate for improving mental health resources available to veterans, Tester also highlighted his bipartisan Revising and Expediting Actions for the Crisis Hotline (REACH) for Veterans Act, a bill to improve the Veterans Crisis Line’s staff training, management, and response to veteran callers at risk of suicide. This bipartisan legislation will help VA, which has experienced a surge in veterans utilizing the hotline since the United States military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, meet the increased demand for its services.