Late last week, the Senate panel in charge of funding the VA approved a bipartisan budget plan for the department that boosts resources and services for veterans while holding the VA more accountable for providing timely and efficient care.

Senator Jon Tester, a member of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, said the bill will help investigators get to the bottom of the recent allegations of mishandled veterans care at the VA.

He highlighted the bill’s increased support for the VA’s independent Office of the Inspector General, which is conducting a nationwide review of VA scheduling practices.

“With veterans continuing to return from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, demand for VA services continues to increase,” said Tester, who is also a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  “We must make sure the VA is ready to provide timely, high quality care and services.  This bill boosts resources while holding the department accountable for the care and support it provides.”

The bill includes Tester’s provision to increase transparency and bring additional oversight to the Veterans Health Administration.  The provision requires the VA’s Medical Inspector to publically report and submit to Congress regular reports on problems or deficiencies within the Veterans Health Administration.  Tester recently held VA leadership accountable for veterans’ access to healthcare at a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The bill provides:

·       $7.2 billion to support improved mental health care
·       $567 million for expanded tele-health services
·       $403 million specifically for women’s health care to meet the unique needs of female veterans
·       $250 million specifically for new efforts to improve rural veterans’ health care
·       $237 million for counseling services for veterans and their families
·        $58 million to support the VA’s Rural Veterans Burial initiative which includes the Yellowstone National Cemetery
·       $38 million to repair and modernize the Montana Army National Guard’s readiness center in Helena