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 taking a statewide listening tour to hear from veterans. Jon talked directly to Montana’s heroes. Since then, he has become a champion for rural veterans — and he’s gotten real results.
Using his seat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Jon immediately turned the ideas from his listening sessions into action.
Jon believes in honoring the men and women who fought for America’s freedoms by fighting for their access to quality health care.
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, Eric Shinseki, for funds to expand the clinic and 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.
Jon also pushed the VA to build new clinics in Havre, Lewistown, Cut Bank, and Libby — giving Montana veterans better access to the health care they’ve earned.
He also successfully secured the first boost in the mileage reimbursement rate for disabled veterans in 30 years. Increasing the rate from 11 cents to 41.5 cents per mile, helping veterans more easily afford transportation to and from their doctor’s appointments.
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.
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 in 2011 — the only law that year 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 passed.
In 2012, Jon led the fight to get a cost-of-living increase in survivor benefits for veterans with service-connected disabilities and their families. He worked to expand the Montana National Guard’s successful Yellow Ribbon program to all 50 states. And he successfully helped make Laurel’s Yellowstone County Veterans’ Cemetery into 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. The Veterans Affairs Committee recently approved Jon’s comprehensive legislation on rural veterans. The legislation would require the VA to develop a strategic plan to improve access and quality of healthcare for rural veterans and reauthorize the Veterans Transporation Service to allow VA facilities to purchase vehicles and hire staff to transport veterans. The Veterans Affairs Committee also passed Jon’s legislation that provides the VA with the flexibility and tools it needs to recruit and retain highly-qualified medical professionals in under-served areas, like rural communities.
And Jon has strengthened protections for service members who are victims of sexual assault, pushing the VA to improve reproductive treatment and care options. He has also fought to ensure that certain breast cancer screenings are covered by TRICARE.
Jon’s work on behalf of Montana veterans is ongoing – because a promise made is a promise to keep.