All in This Together

We have one of the highest percentages of veteran populations in the U.S. though Montana VA only serves 45 percent of them right now

By Dee Brown

Recently, the state Administration & Veterans’ Affairs interim committee (SAVA) had a panel discussion about veteran needs across the state. Panel members included reps from Sen. Jon Tester’s office, three combat veterans, VA officials and ombudsmen working through the Department of Health & Human Services (DPHHS).

There are many resources for veterans in Montana but our focus was on the underserved veteran who often falls through the cracks and receives no assistance. We are obligated as Montanans to help our veterans who have given so much to our state and country.

I believe that the best links to veterans needing services are the people who love them. Family and friends often notice subtle changes in behavior or when their loved one is struggling with healthcare, job placement or housing. Often these caring people recognize the needs before the veteran will admit it to themselves.

The recent spotlight on negatives in VA healthcare across the country has prompted quick action on the national level. Tester has been on the forefront of the legislation since he sits on the committee with oversight of the VA. His assistant, Bruce Knutson from Missoula, said it best, “When it comes to veterans there are no D’s or R’s.” I totally agree!

Committee discussion centered on how best to serve the veteran who has not reached out to local resources. Stand downs across the state, veteran-related organizations based in each area and community articles on awareness begin the discussion. There is always more we can do.

Future discussions will focus on outreach via nonprofits, more service providers who get out of their offices and have “boots on the ground” and possible designation of a state ombudsman who is a veteran and knows the needs from their perspective.

There will be a two year federal pilot program in our state named ARCH – Access to Reach Closer to Home. We are hoping that these dollars will do as they are intended: help veterans where they are and allow them access to services. I believe it will be a cooperative effort by the state and federal government in providing much needed services to underserved veterans.

We have one of the highest percentages of veteran populations in the U.S. though Montana VA only serves 45 percent of them right now. Do you know a veteran who could benefit from services? Please contact the nearest veteran’s facility for assistance since they look forward to helping. We are all in this together.

Sen. Dee Brown, Hungry Horse
Chair, SAVA Interim Committee

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