Tester, Isakson push new VA reform bill through Senate for president’s signature

Sen. Jon Tester sent his 21st bill to president’s desk for signature just before the Christmas break, including legislation to honor Native American veterans and increase protections for student veterans.

The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act passed the Senate last week.

“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,” Tester said in a statement.

The legislation includes 18 separate bills – six authored by Tester – that increase the transparency of the VA’s electronic health records, and honors Native American veterans by enabling the VA to provide headstones in tribal cemeteries.

It also protects student veterans by ensuring they’re not punished by a college due to late tuition payments from the VA. The legislation also requires the VA to explore the possibility of expanding veterans’ access to dental care, among other things.

“This legislation is the product of hard work, compromise and bipartisanship,” Tester said. “I have been honored to work with Chairman Isakson this Congress to accomplish so much for our nation’s veterans.”

In a statement, Isakson, R-Georgia, also lauded the legislation, saying it capped “two years of accomplishments” within the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Isakson chairs the committee and Tester serves as its senior Democrat.

“We have passed significant reforms to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve the daily lives of our nation’s veterans,” Isakson said. “This legislative package will help improve veterans’ education and burial benefits, address veteran homelessness and help engage the community in providing a seamless transition for veterans and their families.”