Montana Public Radio


Montana’s Sens. Steve Dianes and Jon Tester join new U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough for a roundtable discussion at Fort Harrison, April 7, 2021.
Shaylee Ragar / Montana Public Radio

The Biden Administration's new secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs joined Montana’s congressional delegates for a visit to Fort Harrison in Helena Wednesday. The officials are urging veterans to get vaccinated for COVID-19. 

The Senate veterans' affairs committee got an early progress report this week on a newly established program. Created by a new law, the program aims to help veterans struggling with their mental health.

The new Southwest Montana Veterans' Home welcomed its first resident Monday. The grand opening is a big deal in Butte, where regional veterans have waited nearly 30 years for a facility to call their own.

80-year-old Bill Davis is the first of what will eventually be 60 veterans to call the $20 million facility home.

Montana’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester took over as chair of the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Wednesday. Tester had been the committee's top-ranking Democrat since 2017, and took over as chairman from Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas.

U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War
Huey Defoliation National Archives - Public domain

Congress Friday overwhelmingly passed the nation’s immense annual defense policy bill, which President Donald Trump has threatened to veto.

This year’s version of the defense bill expands health benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie speaking outside of the Kalispell, MT VA clinic, September 29, 2020.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is visiting Montana this week to highlight the agency’s increased use of telemedicine during the coronavirus pandemic. More veterans are choosing to visit with their providers electronically, although others don’t know that’s an option.

Democrats charge Republicans with shenanigans over the meeting of a legislative rules committee,  Montana Republican candidates get a boost from Vice-President Pence and new ads in the U.S. Senate race feature veterans.

Listen now on Campaign Beat with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

Personal information of 1,501 veterans in Montana may have been accessed during a data breach involving files from the Montana VA Health Care System earlier this year.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) announced the breach on July 23, after being notified by the former company contacted to maintain the data June 4.

A May investigation concluded VHA files may have been among those accessed and-or acquired between April 20 and 30 by an unauthorized actor. Full name, social security number and facility are among the information that may have been accessed.

Tony Incashola, director of the Selis-Qispe Culture Committee, blessing the construction site of Missoula's new David J. Thatcher VA Clinic, July 10, 2020.
Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

Critics have complained that Western Montana’s veterans have had to make do with an undersized clinic, but that’s about to change. Friday in Missoula was the groundbreaking for a vastly updated outpatient veteran’s clinic in Missoula.

The Montana Veterans Health Care System is offering free COVID-19 testing to veterans. In a press release, the agency said Montana Veterans enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System can get testing at thirteen locations across the state over the next two weeks.