Senator Tester Announces Agenda for Veterans

Helena Independent Record (Montana)

January 18, 2009 – Improving the health care of American Indian veterans and making it easier to track electronic records are among the improvements Sen. Jon Tester hopes to make this year in the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

Tester, a member of the committee, announced his priorities for 2009, continuing his campaign to improve the overall care of Montana’s rural veterans.

Tester announced the priorities last week during the confirmation hearing for Gen. Eric Shinseki, the incoming secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last year, Tester expressed support for Shinseki when he emerged as a frontrunner for the job. Tester said he’ll vote in favor of Shinseki’s confirmation, adding that the VA is an agency with its share of challenges.

“It will take Gen. Shinseki’s leadership to see the VA through those challenges,” Tester said. “At the end of his service, I hope we can say that great progress has been made.”

The four areas Tester hopes to tackle this year include improved electronic record sharing between the VA and the U.S. Department of Defense. He also looks to ensure that vets receive an accurate disability evaluation, and the necessary treatment, more promptly than in years past.

“It currently takes an average 180 days for a benefit claim to be resolved,” Tester said. “More than half of VA’s workload is on cases that are being re-examined.”

Other improvements in 2009 will include better American Indian access to VA health care, and improved mental-health care and family reintegration for troops, Tester said.

Reporter Martin Kidston: 447-4086 or

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