Tester announces expansion of Billings VA Clinic

Senator’s push for second phase of construction will mean more services for veterans, more jobs for Billings

(BILLINGS, Mont.) – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved construction to double the size of the Billings VA Clinic, expanding services for veterans and creating as many as 70 new jobs in Billings, Senator Jon Tester announced today.

The announcement comes days after Tester pushed the U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary to approve the second phase of construction on the Billings clinic, after a months-long delay.

Once construction is complete, the clinic is expected to provide several new services on-site:

  • Walk-in and specialty services currently unavailable at the existing clinic
  • Dental services
  • Mental health care services
  • Some outpatient surgeries

Surrounded by Montana veterans, Tester today said the new facility will offer many of the services currently only available at Montana’s only VA hospital at Fort Harrison.  Yellowstone County has the highest population of veterans in Montana.  Because of distance and weather, many Billings-area veterans are forced to stay overnight in Helena when they go to Ft. Harrison for treatment.

The VA estimates that the expansion will create as many as 70 new jobs in Billings, from medical professionals to support staff.

“Since I got to the Senate, we’ve tackled some of veterans’ biggest challenges—from access to health care, to quality of services,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  “We’ve seen some tremendous successes, like construction of the new Billings VA Clinic.  But we’ve still got more work to do.  And I’m going to keep fighting my hardest to make sure we live up to the promises made to the men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedoms.”

In 2008, Tester brought then-Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake to Billings to see firsthand the cramped and insufficient old clinic on King Avenue.  After Peake’s visit to Billings, the VA prioritized construction of the new, 25,000-square foot clinic on Billings’ West End.

The new Billings VA Clinic opened its doors in 2009.  Tester delivered the keynote address at the building’s dedication, during which he called on the VA to begin the second phase of construction to expand the facilities.

Tester pushed for inclusion of the project in this year’s VA budget.  After a delay in approval for the project, Tester spoke with top VA officials last week and got the expansion to move forward.

Resources for the Clinic’s expansion will come from the VA’s regular construction budget.

Tester noted that Republicans in the House of Representatives are considering a plan to cut $278 million from the VA’s construction budget, which could potentially jeopardize the planned expansion.  Tester said the proposal would “gut the VA’s construction budget and pull the rug out from under America’s veterans,” adding the proposal is not likely to move forward in the U.S. Senate.