Great Falls Tribune: Tester unveils Montana veterans report

Wait times for veterans seeking medical help at Great Falls-area Veterans Affairs facilities can range anywhere from four to 10 days, according to a report released Wednesday by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

These are numbers the senator said he would like to see decreased.

The “State of Veterans in Montana” report, released on Veterans Day, outlines wait times veterans have to get care at VA facilities. The report also looks at the demographics of the state’s veteran population, regional care and offers stories of veterans who have contacted Tester’s office for help in navigating the VA system and other issues.

It also provides solutions that the senator has offered to some problems.

Tester said the number of veterans going to VA facilities has increased, which also has added to wait times.

He said most Montana veterans tell him they usually get good care from doctors and VA staff.

“The docs and the nurses, for the most part, are the best in the business,” Tester said. “But the hard part is getting that appointment.”

He said more doctors and general practitioners are needed in Montana. He also said he did not approve of sending veterans outside the state for care, adding it was not cost effective nor was it easy for veterans.

Tester said he hoped the report will increase transparency and government accountability and “ensure that in Montana, every day is Veterans Day,” he wrote in the 28-page report’s introduction.

The report breaks down Montana into eight regions, based on the locations of the Democrat’s field offices.

The VA has been plagued with mismanagement and scandal, Tester said.

“I know the VA has been under a microscope, and it should be,” he said. “It’s responsible for honoring a promise, and when that promise is broken, we need to do more than just say sorry. We need to fix it.”