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.

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.


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.