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New Acting VA Secretary

As reported January 20 by Abbie Bennett for Connecting Vets, a new president is in the Oval Office and that means a new VA secretary. But before President Joe Biden’s pick can receive approval from the Senate and be sworn in, the 46th president needed an acting VA secretary. Less than two hours after Biden took the oath of office, his administration, like others before, announced a series of new acting VA leaders and political appointees to lead the second-largest federal department and the largest healthcare system in the country. Chief among those is the new Acting Secretary Dat P. Tran, who previously served as principal deputy assistant secretary for enterprise integration at VA. Tran replaces outgoing VA Secretary (and Trump appointee) Robert Wilkie.
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Tester To Be New Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

Senator continues to fight for veterans in Montana and across the nation in new leadership role 

(U.S. Senate) – After years of serving Montana’s veterans and fighting to deliver quality care and benefits to the nation’s men and women in uniform, U.S. Senator Jon Tester will take over the gavel as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the new Congress. Tester will lead his first hearing tomorrow as Chairman on the pending nomination of Denis R. McDonough to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), and continue his partnership with Republican Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) who will serve as Ranking Member.

“Serving as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is an honor of a lifetime, and I’m grateful for the chance to lead the committee on behalf of Montana’s veterans and all who’ve served our nation proudly,” said Chairman Tester. “I’m looking forward to continuing the bipartisan partnership Senator Moran and I have built, and am ready to roll up my sleeves along with our committee members and veterans advocates to hold the VA accountable, cut red tape, and provide quality care and benefits to those who’ve sacrificed on behalf of our freedoms. Taking care of our veterans is a continuing cost of war, and I’m prepared to get to work in this new role to ensure Congress follows through on this sacred duty.” 

Tester has been a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee since he joined the Senate in 2007. For years, Tester has been a champion for veterans in the Senate, working with various Veterans Service Organizations to push critical initiatives such as the expansion of benefits and care for those exposed to Agent Orangethe Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Actthe Deborah Sampson Act, and the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans, Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update

COVID-19 Vaccine Update: The Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) is excited to announce that the first shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrived at our Fort Harrison VA Medical Center this morning!

The vaccine will be distributed to enrolled Veterans based on a risk stratification table. First, MTVAHCS frontline staff and our Community Living Center residents and staff will be vaccinated. Veterans who are considered highly vulnerable will be the next to receive the vaccine.

As you are identified by clinical staff to be within each risk level to receive the Moderna vaccine, a healthcare team member will contact you to schedule a vaccine appointment. MTVAHCS encourages all Veterans to receive a COVID-19 vaccination (the vaccine is not mandatory). We understand that you may have questions about a new vaccine. Please do not hesitate to send your healthcare team a secure message through MyHealtheVet or call 844-819-0833 to set up a time to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Moderna vaccine will be administered in two separate doses, approximately one month apart. Recipients may experience a mild reaction to the first dose (injection site soreness, muscle aches, etc.) and possibly a greater reaction to the second dose (chills, nausea, headaches, fever, fatigue, etc.).

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, reference these COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs.

Army Proposes Limiting Retiree Burials in Arlington National Cemetery

As reported September 16 by Jim Absher for Military.com, the Army is proposing limiting the number of burials in Arlington National Cemetery, and retirees may be the first to be affected. A proposed rule published in the Federal Register seeks public comment on limiting interments, both burials and inurnments, in Arlington National Cemetery to only those who are retired, saw combat, received certain military awards, served as president or vice president, or were family members of otherwise qualified individuals.
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Jon Stewart Leads Renewed Fight on Benefits for Burn Pit Victims

In a September 15 story for Military Times, Leo Shane III reports that veterans advocates on Tuesday launched a new campaign for additional recognition and aid for troops exposed to toxic burn pit fumes during overseas deployments at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, saying time is running out to provide real help to the victims. “This is not about science, this is about money,” said comedian Jon Stewart in an emotional press conference on Capitol Hill featuring numerous families of dead and dying veterans whose rare illnesses aren’t officially recognized by federal officials as stemming from burn pit exposure.
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