Senator Jon Tester, tapped last week to serve on the Congressional committee hammering out a VA reform compromise bill, fought for Montana veterans’ priorities today at the panel’s first meeting.

I just wrapped up my first VA Conference Committee meeting. It was a productive bipartisan discussion where we began to iron out differences between the Senate and House versions of the VA reform bill.  It’s an honor to be appointed to the group that’s tasked with fixing the access to care issues plaguing the VA.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have a few goals as we move forward with negotiations.

First, we must address the underlying issues at the VA by giving the agency the resources it needs to hire health care providers.  We must get veterans in the door more quickly, and we can’t do that if we don’t have enough nurses and doctors.

Second, we must increase transparency and accountability in order to rebuild the public’s trust in the VA.  Those who game the scheduling system in order to receive performance bonuses must be punished and laws must be put into place to prevent that from ever happening again.

And lastly, I want to emphasize that while I’m glad we are proceeding with this legislation, it will not be a silver bullet that fixes all of the issues at the VA.  We’ve got a long way to go, and I want to keep hearing from Montana veterans.  Access to care problems didn’t pop up overnight, and addressing them will require long-term focus and commitment.

As the Conference Committee continues its work, I will continue to reach across the aisle to find consensus to reform the VA and make sure it has enough doctors and nurses to serve our veterans.

Our nation’s veterans have earned high quality, timely care and we must do our very best to ensure their sacrifices are honored and we live up to the promises we made them when they joined the service.”

My recent conversation with Congressman Daines touches on this issue as well. You can listen to it HERE