Montana’s senior Senator Jon Tester appeared on a live video conference on Thursday dealing with the American Rescue Plan Act and its support for veterans.

“When the pandemic struck, we were able to get the American Rescue Plan Act passed to provide all Americans with targeted relief,” began Senator Tester. “They needed to be able to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and this included our veterans and their families. The American Rescue Plan Act successfully got shots into arms, got our schools reopened and got a floundering economy back on track.”

Tester pointed out how ARPA specifically helped veterans.

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“For many veterans, the American Rescue Plan Act has been a lifeline and continues to help give veterans in Montana and across the country the critical care and assistance that they have earned. With more and more folks seeking care and services from the VA, I'm proud to have worked as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with veterans and stakeholders, with frontline health care workers and local officials to secure billions of dollars to support those who swore an oath to protect our country to slow the spread of the virus and to save lives.”

Tester, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, pointed out the ARPA funds used to assist veterans in crisis.

“It's also been key in ensuring our most vulnerable veterans are protected by bolstering funding for homeless veterans programs and state veterans homes, including $1.5 million for the Montana State Veterans Home,” he said. “It helped expand folks’ health care options and reduced out of pocket costs, waiving VA co payments for the first 18 months of the pandemic for more than 1.2 million veterans.”

Tester acknowledged that suicide is still a major problem with veterans in Montana and helping veterans to come forward for help.

“We've done a lot, but it hasn't been enough,” he said.  ‘We've still got a long ways to go. And we still have to continue to educate folks on how it's no crime to admit that you're depressed or it's no crime to admit that you're having problems getting through the challenges of life, because I’ve got news for you. Everybody has those challenges and there's no crime to it. We’ve just got to make sure people are able to go to the doctor, get the treatment they need to fix that broken arm or fix that mental health condition.”

Also appearing on the video conference were Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins and Marlin Jenkins, Lieutenant Colonel in the Maryland Army National Guard.

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