Montana Public Radio

Jon Tester

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to extend health care benefits to offshore Vietnam veterans who had contact with Agent Orange.

The current law only offers the benefits to veterans who served within the borders of Vietnam.

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

Units 1 and 2 of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip will permanently close at the end of this year. Plant operator Talen Energy made that announcement in a press release Tuesday, saying the company has been unsuccessful in making the units economically viable. Talen says the plant’s newer units, 3 and 4, will remain open.

Tester Rallies For Blackfoot Clearwater Lands Bill

Jun 7, 2019

CORRECTION: The orginal draft of this story said this bill would remove wilderness study designation to some public lands. The bill does not address wilderness study areas. 

For the third time in three years, Sen. Jon Tester held a rally for a bill he’s sponsoring to expand federally designated wilderness in northwest Montana, and allow some snowmobile and mountain bike use on public lands in the area.

About two hundred people packed the Kettlehouse Brewing taproom in Bonner over the noon hour to hear Tester speak at an event hosted by the Montana Wilderness Association. They’re all hoping this is the year the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act passes.

Billings Clinic in Billings, MT.
Courtesy Billings Clinic

The federal government’s big, new effort to allow veterans to use their VA health benefits to pay for healthcare from private doctors, clinics and hospitals launched Thursday. But the last effort went so badly in Montana that many are worried that the private sector won’t want to participate. That doesn’t appear to be happening, but the whole deal is still very much in pencil here.

Backlash is broadening in Congress against a plan to close or transfer management of Forest Service Civilian Conservation Centers, including two in Montana. 

Senator Jon Tester.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

One day after Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines announced a reversal of the decision to close a Job Corps facility in Anaconda, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester introduced legislation that would stop closures of similar sites across the country.

In a speech on the Senate Floor Tuesday, Tester said, "It is my hope that this administration will open their eyes and see what’s really going on in this country." 

Kim Schaub, a graduate of the Anaconda Job Corps, welds at Anaconda's Intercontinental Truck Body.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The Trump Administration last week announced it’s closing the Anaconda Job Corps, along with eight others across the country. The closure could be devastating to the students and the local community.

The lobby of the Veterans Administration hospital at Ft Harrison in Helena
Eric Whitney

In one week Veterans are supposed to get improved access to healthcare in the private sector via the Mission Act, which Montana Senator Jon Tester wrote. But there are still some big unanswered questions about whether it will work.

The Mission Act is Congress’ second attempt since 2014 to make it easier for vets to use their benefits to pay for healthcare in the private sector if nearby VA facilities don’t offer what they need, or if they’d have to wait weeks to get it.

VA Meetings Will Address Mission Act Health Benefit

May 29, 2019
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Montana Veterans are being invited to meetings to learn more about a new health care benefit this week and next.

The VA is hosting afternoon sessions on the Mission Act in Billings and Helena Thursday, in Missoula Friday and in Great Falls on June 4.

Montana’s Republican Senator Steve Daines is strengthening his response to the Trump Administration’s planned closure of the Job Corps’ Civilian Conservation Center in Anaconda.

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