Senator Jon Tester is once again making life easier for Montana's veterans.
The Senate this week passed two Tester provisions that increase rural veterans' access to care. Thanks to Tester, the Department of Veterans Affairs will now reimburse veterans travelling to Vet Centers from rural areas and establish rural health resource centers to improve care for rural veterans.
Tester, Montana's only member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said that veterans often tell him that a lack of access to care is the greatest hurdle to receiving needed treatments.
"Montana's one of the biggest states in the country and that presents our veterans with unique challenges," Tester said. "These bills lower the barriers to reliable care and help veterans get the treatments they earned -- whether they're in Billings or Plentywood."
The bill also includes Tester's measure to give the VA greater authority to waive copayments for telehealth services. Veterans in rural areas or with limited mobility use telehealth services to receive care in their homes or at local clinics. Data shows that using telehealth technology helps patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension live better, more independent lives.
For veterans that need to visit a Vet Center, Tester's Vet Center provision expands a VA pilot initiative that covers the costs veterans incur travelling to and from the nearest Vet Center. Montana has four Vet Centers, which provide counseling, medical screenings and other assistance.
"Improving Montana veterans' access to care and quality of life is a responsibility that I take seriously," Tester said. "Our veterans made tremendous sacrifices and that's something I'll never forget."
Tester's measures passed the Senate as part of a larger package of veterans' bills. Other approved bills that Tester backed include:
Expanding rehabilitative services for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Authorizing the VA to provide housing assistance to veterans affected by fires and other natural disasters
Requiring the VA to admit trained service dogs into VA owned or funded facilities
Tester's efforts to improve veterans' lives range from health care to transportation services to education benefits. In addition to going after companies that abuse veterans' pensions, Tester recently led Congress in passing a bill to improve the job market for veterans.
The overall veterans' bill is online HERE. It must now be approved by the House of Representatives before being signed into law by the President.