Tester Sends Key National Security Bill to President’s Desk

2018 NDAA will Raise Pay for Troops, Invest in ICBMs, and Expand Services for Veterans

(U.S. Senate)—U.S. Senator Jon Tester sent critical national security legislation to the President’s desk today. The bill includes key Tester-authored provisions that will give U.S. troops a pay raise, strengthen the nation’s ICBM fleet, and help veterans get the care and benefits they have earned.

“Our country is only as strong as the folks who defend it,” Tester said. “So, by investing in pay raises for our troops and ensuring our veterans get the care they deserve, this bipartisan bill does right by our men and women in uniform and bolsters the safety and security of our nation.”

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sets funding levels and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition to providing a 2.4 percent pay raise to service members, the bill also includes a number of important provisions championed by Tester.  

ICBMs

Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base is one of only three military bases across the country that house the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The country’s current fleet of ICBMs were first developed in the 1960s. The 2018 NDAA makes key investments in extending the life of these weapons to ensure they are safe and reliable for years to come. 

John Olsen

The 2018 NDAA also includes Tester’s Gary Deloney and John Olsen Toxic Exposure Declassification Act, a bipartisan bill that would declassify the military records of veterans subjected to secret Cold War-era chemical weapons testing. Tester has worked closely with Billings veteran John Olsen to get this bill crafted and passed. A decorated U.S. Navy veteran, Olsen participated in Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) in the mid-1960s, a series of top-secret tests aimed at gauging the vulnerability of naval vessels to chemical and biological attacks. During these tests, Olsen was exposed to high levels of weaponized chemical agents and highly toxic carcinogens, and has since experienced a litany of serious health issues and battled cancer four times. But because the records of Project SHAD have been classified, the VA has denied Olsen his benefits and refused to administer care related to his exposure. Tester’s bill would declassify these records, allowing Olsen to finally file a claim to receive the medical care and benefits he deserves.

Military Sexual Trauma

Tester also successfully secured a provision from his Servicemember and Veterans’ Empowerment and Support Act that requires the VA to provide counseling and care for more survivors of military sexual trauma (MST). Currently, these benefits are only extended to service members who experience MST while on active duty or in active duty training, but Tester’s provision expands these services to troops who suffer MST during inactive duty training as well. This is part of Tester’s larger effort to improve care and treatment of female veterans.

Other-than-Honorable Discharges

Half a million veterans have received other-than-honorable discharges from the military, many after diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) sustained during their service.  Tester supported key provisions in the 2018 NDAA to ensure at-risk veterans can access critical mental health care that has been previously denied to them. This includes a provision that gives veterans who were discharged based on PTSD or TBIs priority consideration when appealing their discharge status and a provision requiring the DoD to provide information about benefit eligibility to service members who are separating under other-than-honorable conditions.

The final version of 2018 NDAA was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week, it now heads to the President’s desk for signature.