Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist

Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist is shown in this file photo.

Our country strongly supports our solders and sailors on active duty and in the Reserve. All of these men and women will become American service veterans after their service.

Montana has the second-highest per capita veterans in the U.S. In World War II, Montana had the highest casualties per capita of any state in the country. The driving distance for many veterans, especially in eastern Montana, to Veterans Administration Medical Centers is over 40 miles. As of Sept. 30, 2015, there were 99,000 veterans in Montana. There are two inpatient care sites, 18 outpatient care sites and four vet centers. There are 50,178 enrollees in the VA Health Care System.

Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives Rob Quist listened to a roundtable discussion that focused on veterans and veterans’ access to mental and physical health care. Quist asked informational questions and suggested we need to strengthen the Veterans Choice Act to better serve rural veterans, keep rural hospitals open, expand access to health care and enhance mental health service, make it easier for veterans to access the benefits they earned and strengthen the American Health Care Act and its component for veterans.

When shown a VA Identification Card, a young vet back from deployment asked, “where do you get that?” Answer: go to your closest vet center and enroll.

One of the roundtable members discussed the benefits of VA long term preventive care. He explained his Helena Inpatient Care Center that saved his life and the surgical procedure at the site.

What is being proposed in Congress would hurt veterans rather than what we have under the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act is an important component for family members who are not enrolled in a VA health care program. They may get lower costs on monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs. Family members could be eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wide variety of programs and services. Many veterans use VA education programs, obtain VA-guaranteed home loans, and receive VA disability payments. The VA is undergoing a radical transformation in relating to veterans through the MyVA initiative. The VA has made ending veteran homelessness a top priority, undertaking a campaign to dramatically increase awareness of VA services available for homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless. The VA provides a large health network of hospitals, outpatient clinics, Vet Centers, nursing homes, residential rehabilitation treatment programs, and comprehensive home care programs. The VA also manages a network of national cemeteries, soldier’s lots, and monument sites, and provides headstones and markers.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester says he needs a partner in Congress. Rob Quist in the U.S. House of Representative will be that partner to make the many improvements in VA care that are needed. 

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This opinion is signed by U.S. Reserve Lt. Col. Richard Liebert of Eden; and Aart Dolman (Army), Penny Briant (U.S. Navy), Dyrck Van Hyning (Marine), Dr. Hugh Dundee (Marine) and Peter Briant (U.S. Air Force), all of Great Falls. 

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