(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester hosted a roundtable discussion with Democratic Committee members and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) last week to discuss their ongoing legislative priorities following Senate passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022—bipartisan legislation championed by the Chairman to deliver generations of toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the first time in the nation’s history.
“We made history by passing the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act thanks to all of you and countless other veterans advocates who never let up until Washington delivered,” said Chairman Tester. “But, like on the farm, there’s always more work to do, which is what we’re here today to talk about.”
He continued, “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far this Congress but there are ongoing issues facing veterans and their families we still need to address. Tackling the mental health crisis in the veteran community remains one of my top priorities, along with finding commonsense ways to modernize VA infrastructure. I look forward to tackling these issues together, like we did with the PACT Act.”
At the roundtable, the Senators engaged stakeholders in constructive dialogue on their top legislative priorities for the remainder of the current Congress—including improving VA infrastructure, reforming the VA Caregivers Program, bolstering support for women veterans, and strengthening veterans’ access to suicide prevention resources and mental health care.
“We greatly appreciate Senator Tester sitting down with DAV and other VSOs to discuss the many critical issues affecting the veteran community—including passing the Honoring Our PACT Act, modernizing VA infrastructure, improving mental health and suicide prevention programs, expanding dental care to all veterans, and strengthening benefits for caregivers and women veteran,” said Joy Ilem, National Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). “His constant willingness to listen to and work with veterans groups like DAV is a welcome demonstration of leadership and dedication to our nation’s veterans, and we hope to see the veterans committees work collaboratively on these issues so legislation can be enacted prior to the end of the 117th Congress.”
“We applaud Chairman Tester’s leadership on building bipartisan support to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act, critical legislation that will improve the lives of countless veterans across the country,” said Jose Ramos, Vice President of Government and Community Relations of the Wounded Warrior Project. “Today’s opportunity to present Wounded Warrior Project’s remaining priorities for 2022 to Chairman Tester and Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will bring renewed energy and focus around specific legislation that will address the needs of the warriors, families, and caregivers we serve.”
“These roundtables are essential to ensuring that the voices of our veterans are heard and their needs met,” said Lawrence Montreuil, Legislative Director of The American Legion. “Thank you to Chairman Tester for the dialogue, his committed leadership, and for taking the time to listen to the priorities of our 1.8 million Legionnaires.”
“The VFW is grateful for Senator Tester holding a roundtable discussion with a group of veteran advocates,” said Pat Murray, National Legislative Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). “These types of frank and transparent discussions are what lead to substantive change and we appreciate the opportunity to speak directly with Chairman Tester about some of the remaining issues left to tackle in this Congress.”
“Our MOAA members value these roundtable engagements and opportunities to work with Congress on issues impacting our veterans and servicemembers, their families, caregivers, and survivors,” said Commander René Campos, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Senior Director of Government Relations for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). “We are grateful to Senator Tester for hosting the roundtable and letting MOAA share our veterans’ priorities for the remaining months of this session of Congress—those are, 1) Securing VA appropriations before the start of the new fiscal year; 2) Prioritizing and accelerating access to caregiving, long-term, and extended care programs; 3) Stabilizing and modernizing the VA workforce to address increase workloads as a result of increased mission requirements and significant staffing shortages; 4) Passing provisions to improve access to mental health and suicide prevention services, including reducing copayments for behavior health visits; and, 5) Expanding access to dental care to veterans.”
Tester has long been dedicated to identifying a path forward for unaddressed toxic exposure issues alongside VSOs—remaining committed to delivering comprehensive relief to all generations of toxic-exposed veterans. The Senator’s PACT Act passed the Senate last week and is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
As Chairman, Tester is continuing his push to strengthen veterans’ health care and benefits with the Support The Resilience of Our Nation’s Great (STRONG) Veterans Act, a comprehensive bipartisan legislative package to bolster critical mental health resources and care for veterans. He is also pushing strengthen the delivery of medical facilities and other infrastructure projects at VA through his Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act.