HELENA, Mont. - Senator Jon Tester (D - Montana) joined state representatives and the Secretary of Veteran Affairs one last time Wednesday, as they listened to veterans’ needs in a statewide tour.

From help for toxic exposure to mental health, state and community leaders came together with local military members to hear about the issues they face.

Together, alongside Senator Steve Daines (R - Montana) and U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale, they heard about concerns from military members and local groups. This included struggles around Agent Orange from the Vietnam war and expanding health care for those living in more rural communities.

The need for mental health resources also came up a couple of times. While there’s been progress, like more telehealth services, VA Secretary Denis McDonough says they still have a ways to go.

“Seeking mental healthcare is no different than seeking any other physical healthcare intervention. It’s critically important to long-term full health, but we have so much more to do,” he said.

They also heard suggestions for improving VA services, including better funding for hiring more service officers, and creating healthcare units with daycare providers for women who served.

Plus, when it comes to flying in supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, McDonough tells Montana Right Now that lessons learned in the Treasure State came in handy for similar places like Alaska and Kansas. 

“[They’re] similarly situated highly rural states where we’re seeing now better uptake among our rural vets,” McDonough said. “But we’re concerned that not all vets, especially in rural settings know that this is available to them.”

Mcdonough says the VA has vaccinated over 2.5 million veterans so far. 

Whether you’re struggling with mental health issues or have questions about the COVID-19 vaccination process, you’re encouraged to reach out to your local VA office to get the help you need. 

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