Tester Statement on Republicans Blocking Veterans Health and Benefits Legislation


(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today released a statement following a group of Senate Republicans blocking the Elizabeth Dole Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2023, which includes Tester’s VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2023:

“In Montana, we respect and fight for the men and women who have defended our country and freedoms. Today’s failed vote tells them that their government doesn’t value their sacrifices. By blocking consideration of a bill that passed unanimously out of Committee two months ago, a group of Republicans today prioritized partisan politics over providing our nation’s veterans their hard-earned benefits and care.”

In February, Tester led the Committee in advancing the five bills included in the Elizabeth Dole Veterans Programs Improvement Act with unanimous support. This includes his three bills to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to explore medicinal cannabis as an alternative treatment for veterans experiencing chronic pain and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), expand home and community-based support for aging and disabled veterans, and help Native American and Alaska Native veterans achieve homeownership.

The Senator’s bipartisan VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act would specifically expand cannabis research into other factors related to veterans’ health, such as improvements to mood and/or social functioning, impacts on other substance use, and changes to overall quality of life. It would also require the clinical trials to examine the effects of different forms, potencies, and methods of cannabis administration while ensuring veterans’ health and safety is put first and foremost throughout the research.

Additional provisions in this legislation would:

  • Establish a grant program to expand the work of county veterans service officers who provide critical outreach and assistance to veterans seeking the benefits they have earned.
  • Expand access to home and community-based care programs for veterans, bolster home health care staffing, and work to strengthen the VA caregiver and long-term care programs.
  • Make VA’s Native American Direct Loan program more accessible to Native American veterans living on trust land, and expand program outreach to include collaborations with local service providers to offer homebuyer education and housing counseling to more Native American veterans.
  • Improve VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers by creating more appropriate processes for evaluating and assessing veterans who need mental health care, specialist care, and veterans with chronic or degenerative conditions.
The legislation has received strong backing from numerous Veterans Service Organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.