Tester to VA: Deploy Mobile Vet Center to Support Veterans in Eastern Montana
Chairman pushes VA to deliver stronger mental health care and life-saving assistance to veterans in rural Montana
Following his recent Montana trip with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is calling on the Department to deploy a Mobile Vet Center to provide critical mental health services and outreach to veterans living in the eastern part of the state, including in rural areas and on tribal lands.
“During VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal’s visit in December, we heard firsthand from veterans and local providers about the lack of access to in-person mental health care,” the Senator wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “…Deploying a Mobile Vet Center to communities around Eastern Montana could strengthen VA’s relationship with Montana veterans, better inform them of their earned care and benefits, and strengthen suicide prevention efforts…Vet Centers provide invaluable care and assistance to many veterans across Montana, and I request the Department expand this focus to reach our Eastern Montanan veterans.”
The Senator also urged VA to “expeditiously” utilize the $13.9 billion in funding he secured for veterans’ mental health in the federal funding bill last month to help improve VA’s mental health care services and suicide prevention efforts. Tester further pushed for swift implementation of legislation he authored and secured in the bill, including his American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act, and emphasized the need to increase outreach to ensure Native veterans gain access to earned VA care and benefits.
He continued, “My American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act requires VA medical centers to consult with local tribes and deliver tailored outreach and culturally competent mental health care to Native veterans. I request the Department provide me with a detailed timeline for implementation of this law and compliance with these new requirements. In the meantime, VA should undertake a coordinated, collaborative effort to proactively share outreach materials and resources with Native veterans.”
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senator secured two additional bills to improve mental health care resources and suicide prevention efforts at VA in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023—including his Post-9/11 Veterans’ Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 to strengthen VA’s mental health care workforce and Revising and Expediting Actions for the Crisis Hotline (REACH) for Veterans Act to improve the Veterans Crisis Line’s staff training, management, and response to veteran callers at risk of suicide.
Read the Senator’s full letter HERE.