Daines: Statement on the Confirmation of Robert Wilkie as New VA Secretary

U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senator Steve Daines today released the following statement on the confirmation of Robert Wilkie as the new Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: 

“The sacrifices made by Montana’s veterans should be honored and their commitment to our democracy has earned them our respect.  As President Lincoln noted in his second inaugural address, we have duty ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle…”

“I am confident Secretary Robert Wilkie is the right individual to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and that he will ensure Montana (and all U.S.) veterans are getting the care and the support they need following their years of service.  I look forward to working with him, especially on efforts to care for veterans in rural areas and realizing the benefits of service that embraces technological advances of recent years. “

“Accountability must also be a focus of Secretary Wilkie’s tenure.  We need to make sure that we have incentives to get the right providers to meet the needs and keep them.  We also need to hold the bad actors accountable as well.”


Daines met with Wilkie on June 25.

Daines personally handed letter to Wilkie highlighting issues important to Montana Veterans on June 25.

Daines applauded nomination of Wilkie on May 18.

Daines on Veterans:

In January 2018, Daines met with Health Net Federal Services (HNFS) President and CEO, Billy Maynard, to address concerns regarding changes to the TRICARE network in Montana, and providers who no longer accept TRICARE due to poor experiences with HFNS in the Veterans Choice Program. 

On December 25, 2017, Daines led a letter to President and CEO of Health Net Federal Services, the current administrator for the Veterans Choice Program in Montana.

On November 10, 2017, Daines sponsored the Veteran State Home Grant Backlog Reduction Act to resolve a six-year delay in providing veterans’ care in Butte.

In August 2017, Daines cohosted VA Secretary David Shulkin at the VAMC Fort Harrison to discuss critical provider shortages and obstacles to providing timely access to quality care to all eligible veterans in Montana. 

On May 3, 2017, Daines sponsored the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act.

On March 14, 2017, Daines sponsored the Veterans Choice Improvement Act to revamp the VA Choice Program and make reforms ensuring that non-VA health providers receive timely payments.

On January 31, 2017, Daines met with VA Secretary David Shulkin to discuss problems with VA Choice, including flawed implementation, late payments, scheduling errors and inaccessibility of providers.

On January 25, 2017, Daines highlighted the importance of improving the Veterans Choice Program for Montana’s veterans in a letter to President Donald J. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin.

In January 2017, Daines met with the President and CEO of Health Net Federal Services, Billy Maynard, to discuss payment delays to Choice providers and VA reimbursement delays.

On January 9, 2017, in a letter to Billy Maynard, President and CEO of Health Net, Daines expressed concerns that he has heard from Montana veterans of their lack of confidence in Health Net’s ability to fulfill their obligations.

On December 12, 2016, Daines met with Dr. Kathy Berger, the director of the Montana VA Healthcare System, to discuss prioritizing Montana veterans and ensuring they receive the care they deserve.

On May 11, 2016, Daines sponsored the Veterans First Act, comprehensive legislation to improve veterans’ access to health care, more quickly fire poor-performing VA staff, and improve the disability compensation process.

On March 7, 2016, Daines sponsored the Veterans Choice Improvement Act.

On January 21, 2015, Daines sponsored the Veterans Access to Community Care Act, to increase flexibility in interpreting the Choice Act’s 40-mile rule so veterans do not have to travel as far to receive the care they need.

On June 9, 2014, Daines sponsored the Veterans Access to Care Act.