Government Affairs

Montana Legislative Issues


Honor and Remember Medallion

During the 2017 Legislative Session, Gov. Bullock signed into Montana state law the Honor and Remember Act, which authorizes the Honor and Remember Medallion (HRM) for family members of servicemen or women who have passed in the service of their country while engaged against hostile military forces.  The Medallion – its appearance and presentation criteria – is based upon the Department of Defense and U.S. Congress’ determination of the Gold Star Family standard, and as adopted by Montana state statute.   As such, specific family relationships are authorized the Honor and Remember Medallion – as designated on its application form.  The Medallion’s presentation criteria honors previously relevant state laws that allowed for a Medallion, at no charge, for one family member; as well as, the recently passed legislation which expands the Medallion’s availability to all authorized family members (per Gold Star Family standards).  Expanding the availability was the right thing to do, but it also significantly increased the cost of the program; therefore, there is a cost of $20 for any additional family member to receive the Medallion.  While there was apprehension to include a fee, it was necessary for the greater good of the Honor and Remember Medallion program in that it could be, long-term, as financially self-sustaining as possible.  While the $20 does not cover all the costs of the Medallion, its presentation case, the engraving and other expenses; it does – as augmented by donations – ensure its perpetual availability.  Please visit the Montana Veterans Affairs Division website at mt.gov to obtain the application and instructions.


National Legislative Issues

Stay informed about the issues that affect Vietnam Veterans.

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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Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Passes Pending Legislation

Today, Wednesday, August 5, 2020, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Chair Jerry Moran, R-Kan and Ranking Minority Member Jon Tester-D-MT, passed the following 12 legislative bills out of  committee and 2 were withdrawn by members.

Veterans Legislation

1. S. 3282 (Cassidy/Tester) Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2020. Passed

2. S. 2558 (Sinema/Cramer) Nursing Home Care for Native American Veterans Act; A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make certain grants to assist nursing homes for veterans located on tribal lands.  Passed

3. S. 3643 (Loeffler/Sinema/Blackburn) VA Mission Telehealth Clarification Act. Passed

4. S.2950 (Sullivan/Manchin/Tillis/Rounds/Boozman) Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act of 2019 (Committee Print); A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to concede exposure to airborne hazards and toxins from burn pits under certain circumstances, and for other purposes.  Passed

5. S. 4384 (Sullivan/Blumenthal) K2 Toxic Exposure Study; A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to address exposure by members of the Armed Forces to toxic substances at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, Uzbekistan, and for other purposes.    Passed

6. S. 4393 (Tillis) Toxic Exposure in the American Military Act of 2020 (Committee Print); A bill to improve the provision of health care and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances, and for other purposes. Withdrawn

7. S. 711 (Tester/Moran) CARE for Reservists Act of 2019. Passed

8. S. 332 (Blumenthal) Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act of 2019 (Committee Print);  A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to remove the manifestation period required for the presumptions of service connection for chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, and acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents, and for other purposes. VVA AO-17 Convention Resolution.   Recognition was given by Senator Blumenthal-CT  to VVA member Gerry Wright-CT for his hard work on the bill during the hearing as the bill Passed.

9. S. 805 (Tester/Boozman/Brown/Blumenthal) Veterans Debt Fairness Act (Committee Print); A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the processing of veterans benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, to limit the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recover overpayments made by the Department and other amounts owed by veterans to the United States, to improve the due process accorded veterans with respect to such recovery, and for other purposes.  Passed

10. S. 514 (Tester/Boozman) The Deborah Sampson Act (Committee Print) – Passed

11. S. 629 (Tester/Murray/Blumenthal/Brown) Accountability in Department of Veterans Affairs Scheduling and Consult Management Act (Committee Print) – Passed

12. S. 2216 (Peters/Blackburn) TEAM Veteran Caregiver Act (Committee Print); A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to formally recognize caregivers of veterans, notify veterans and caregivers of clinical determinations relating to eligibility for caregiver programs, and temporarily extend benefits for veterans who are determined ineligible for the family caregiver program, and for other purposes. Passed

13. S.____ (Moran/Tester/Boozman/Rounds/Sinema/Tillis/Daines/Peters/Wyden/ Lankford/Carper) Veteran Benefits Enhancement and Expansion Act of 2020. Withdrawn 

14. S. 3235 (McSally/Kaine) Veterans Posttraumatic Growth Act – Passed


VA Health Care Data for iPhone

In honor of Veterans Month this November, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is rolling out nationwide access for Veterans to their VA health data, alongside their health records from other health care providers in one place, in the Health Records section of the Health app for iPhone.

Now, patients will be able to see their medical information from various participating institutions, including VA, organized into one view. The view covers allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications and procedures and vitals. Veterans will also receive notifications when their data is updated.

“We have delivered Veterans an innovative new way to easily and securely access their health information,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Veterans deserve access to their health data at any time and in one place, and with Health Records on the Health app, VA has pushed the Veterans experience forward.”

This capability was developed through VA’s Veterans Health Application Programming Interface (Veterans Health API), first revealed in February, and has topped 2,000 users. The Veterans Health API allows private sector organizations to create and deploy innovative digital applications that help Veterans access their health records in new ways. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID.

Beyond this effort with Apple, VA plans to partner with other organizations to bring similar capabilities to other mobile platforms.


Senate Passes Veterans Benefits and Transition Act

The United States Senate passed Ranking Member Jon Tester’s 21st bipartisan bill, capping off a landmark Congress with numerous victories for America’s veterans.

 Tester’s Veterans Benefits and Transition Act contains 18 bipartisan bills, including the following six bipartisan Tester-authored bills to honor Native American veterans, better protect student veterans, and increase the transparency and accountability of the VA’s historic electronic health records transition.

The Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress “SIT-REP” Act:Forces schools that receive G.I. Bill benefits to adopt a policy that it will not impose a late fee, restrict a student veterans’ access to campus facilities, or otherwise punish a student veteran due to a late payment of tuition or fees from the VA. 

 Tribal Veteran Burial Benefits Act:Authored by Tester and Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the VA can now provide headstones or burial markers to a Native American veteran’s spouse and dependents who wish to be buried alongside their loved one in a tribal veterans’ cemetery.

 Veteran Debt Fairness Act:Following reports that the VA had been forcing veterans to repay benefits to the VA, Tester authored legislation with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to require the VA to update its information technology systems so that affected veterans are able to review and revise information about their dependents electronically.

 Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act:Tester authored this legislation with Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) to require the VA to notify veterans with a straightforward, easy-to-understand electronic or standard mail notification of any debt that veteran owes to the VA and the steps they can take to dispute that debt.

 Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act:As the VA undertakes the largest electronic health records change in history, Tester and Blumenthal authored legislation to make the modernization program’s key planning and implementation efforts more transparent and hold the VA accountable by requiring the VA to notify Congress in the event of any significant cost increase, schedule delay, loss of veteran health data or breach of privacy.

 Veterans’ Dental Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act:The VA is required to report on the possibility of expanding veterans’ access to dental care. By analyzing access and affordability through VA dental care, oral health needs of eligible veterans, and the number of providers needed to provide such care.

“This legislation is the product of hard work, compromise and bipartisanship,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Sending another VA reform bill to the President’s desk sends a clear message to our nation’s veterans: Serving our men and women in uniform is a responsibility that we should all take very seriously. I have been honored to work with Chairman Isakson this Congress to accomplish so much for our nation’s veterans.”