MTPR

Robert Wilkie

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.

US Capitol, May, 2018
Eric Whitney

Last Thursday both of Montana’s U.S. senators were in Missoula for a ceremony honoring the late David J. Thatcher, a World War Two veteran from the city who flew on the famous Doolittle Raid that struck Japan in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

The ceremony was to put Thatcher’s name on a Veterans Administration health clinic; and veterans health is going to be a big issue this year as Congress gets back to work.

Senator Jon Tester speaks at a joint hearing of the House and Senate veterans committees on Wednesday. Dec. 19, 2018.
CSPAN screenshot

Sen. Jon Tester said he’s worried that the Veterans Health Administration is straying from the direction Congress gave it when it passed a bill six months ago to reform how vets get health care outside the VA system.

"We could end up with a problem where we’re actually cutting benefits for our veterans moving forward," said Tester at a joint hearing of the House and Senate veterans committees Wednesday

Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at a press conference Tuesday.
Senator Jon Tester's office.

Both of Montana’s U.S. Senators are urging the Senate to pass the so-called Blue Water Veterans Act before the current Congress adjourns.

That bill would extend benefits to vets who served on ships during the Vietnam War who may have been exposed to Agent Orange. At present, only troops who served on land are eligible.

Unlike in April, there were few fireworks Wednesday over President Trump's nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

In April, Democratic Senator Jon Tester endured a tweet-storm from Trump after Tester released a list of anonymous accusations that Trump's previous nominee was unfit for the job. That nominee, Admiral Ronny Jackson, subsequently withdrew his nomination. The President then tweeted that Tester should resign from the Senate, and said he'd come to Montana to campaign against his re-election this year.