Montana is home to more than 100,000 veterans. There is a strong tradition of service in our state, and Jon knows that one of his most important duties in the Senate is to make sure this nation lives up to the promises made to each and every one of our veterans.
That’s why Jon’s first order of business after becoming Senator was a statewide listening tour to hear from veterans. Jon talked directly to Montana’s heroes, and took their thoughts and concerns with him to Washington. Since then, he has become a champion for rural veterans — and he’s gotten real results.
From his seat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Jon immediately turned the ideas from his listening sessions into action. He successfully secured the first boost in the mileage reimbursement rate for disabled veterans in 30 years, an increase from 11 cents to 41.5 cents per mile.
Jon believes in honoring the men and women who fought for America’s freedoms by fighting for their access to quality health care. That’s why he pushed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to build new clinics in Havre, Lewistown, Cut Bank, and Libby — giving Montana veterans better access to the health care they’ve earned.
His work with former Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake resulted in a much-needed, much larger VA clinic in Billings. He successfully pushed the current VA Secretary to build two new Veterans Centers — one in Great Falls and one in Kalispell. And he secured resources for the construction of an Inpatient Mental Health Facility at Fort Harrison.
In 2010, Jon worked with Montana’s veteran service organizations to write the landmark Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act. The bill, which was signed into law, opened up grant money to transport veterans to VA facilities, helped the VA recruit and retain high quality health care providers in rural areas, and expanded telehealth projects.
And after speaking with Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger and his wife, Karen — whose son is a former Special Forces officer recovering from a traumatic brain injury — Jon helped write a provision to explore the possibility of constructing a new polytrauma rehabilitation center in the northern Rockies or Dakotas.
One of the biggest obstacles our veterans face after returning home to Montana is finding work. Jon believes that anyone who fights for our freedom should be able to find a job when their service is complete. That’s why he authored the VOW to Hire Heroes Act — the only law to improve private-sector hiring of veterans in America.
Jon also supports educational opportunities for our veterans. Education benefits assist individual veterans and their families, and bolster Montana’s middle class. So when the 21st Century GI Bill came in front of him — a bill that made thousands of Montana’s newest veterans eligible for education benefits — Jon worked hard to get it done.
Jon is committed to getting all veterans — especially those living in rural areas — not only the benefits they’ve earned, but the support they deserve. He’s helped secure two cost-of-living increases in survivor benefits for veterans with service-connected disabilities. He won an expansion of the Montana National Guard’s successful Yellow Ribbon program to all 50 states. And he put Laurel’s Yellowstone County Veterans’ Cemetery in the running to become a national veterans’ cemetery.
The Veterans’ Affairs Committee has approved Jon’s legislation to create new job opportunities and housing for homeless veterans. He also wrote a law to modernize the congressionally-chartered American Legion, allowing members to pay their dues online.
Not to rest on his accomplishments, Jon continues fighting for rural veterans. He recently introduced legislation to protect veterans from losing their pensions when awarded wrongful injury compensation and a bill to ensure that veterans serving in Iraq since the official end of combat operations get the same benefits that were offered to veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom.