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JON TESTER ‘Seuarehare Buxone Serna Wnited States Senate February 10, 2015 ‘The Honorable Robert A. McDonald Secretary Department of Veterans Affairs 810 Vermont Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20420 Dear Secretary McDonald, I appreciate your acceptance of my invitation to Big Sky Country to visit with Montana veterans and VA employees, and to join me in touring some of our state’s VA facilities. [look forward to a very productive trip, and am confident that Montana veterans will be able to provide valuable feedback and ideas on how we can make the VA more responsive the needs of veterans and their families. have previously raised with you the ongoing VA workforce issues in Montana, many of which I outlined in a letter to you on January 28. However, I believe that these issues have now become much more than an inconvenience. Rather, they threaten the credibility of the VA among veterans, employees and the general public. The permanent director position for VA Montana is still vacant. Nurse Managers and other medical professionals continue to leave the VA Montana Health Care System for various reasons. And many veterans across the state continue to be frustrated by various impediments - often medical workforce shortages - that prevent them for getting the care they deserve in a timely manner. I share their frustration, and L am fed up with the inability of the VA to address the chronie workforce shortages in my state. 1 understand that this issue goes beyond the VA, and that the rural and frontier aspects of my state present unique challenges, but it is clear to me that a very bad situation is actually getting worse. In fact, it has just come to my attention that staffing levels at the VA Montana are now at the point where it can no longer safely staff the eight bed acute inpatient section of the mental health facility at Fort Harrison. And until that matter is resolved, Montana veterans in crisis will be forced to look outside the VA for care. I stood next to Dr. Robert Petzel, VA's under secretary for health, at the dedication ceremony for this facility in 2011. We both expressed hope that the facility would be able to serve veterans for years to come. Prior to that day, I fought hard for the funding necessary to open that facility because I heard loud and clear from Montana veterans that the care and services provided by this facility would be absolutely critical. And until now, they have been. That isa big problem. It needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed now. “Bozeman bun Guenone Grear Fas even Kasra (406) 586-4450 (408) 728-2277 106) 365-2901 (oe) 52-0585 (406) 449-6 (406) 257-3360 Missours 400} 726-2003 Again, | appreciate your attention (o these matters, as well as your willingness to come to Montana. I look forward to hosting you. And though one of the chief focuses of the trip will be to provide you a deeper understanding and appreciation for how staffing issues are impacting, care for veterans in my state, I cannot stress more strongly that this matter deserves immediate attention, Veterans in my state simply cannot wait any longer. Montana veterans need a permanent director at Fort Harrison, and we need answers to a medical staffing crisis that gets ‘worse every single day. We need action, Mr. Secretary. Sincerely, Jon Tester

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