Veterans Administration Secretary Robert Wilkie visited the Missoula Veterans Clinic on Palmer Street on Monday along with Montana Senator Steve Daines to deliver a message to all the staff members and employees, to thank them for their hard work in serving the growing population of western Montana veterans, especially during the COVID 19 pandemic.
“It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Missoula with Senator Daines and our wonderful VA team and Dr. Hayman. I’m going to tell you that I’m here for a very simple reason and that is to thank the employees of our Montana VA Health System for everything they have done during this crisis and just as importantly for many up deploying across the country to help their fellow citizens,” said Secretary Wilkie, who then stated his second reason for the visit to Missoula. “The other reason I’m here is to just look at the incredible growth in terms of the veteran population here in Montana,” he said and the expansion of our VA facilities across the state,” he said. “As many of you know, we have already begun the construction on a new clinic that indicates that the veterans’ population here in Montana is vibrant. In fact, Montana is one of those states where when citizens serve their country and decide to end that service, most of them come home, and because of that, in the next few years you will see more people and you will see more resources coming to this beautiful place.”
KGVO posed a question to Secretary Wilkie about how over the years veterans have had increasing difficulties in getting their benefits to pay for medical care. He referenced the Choice Act, which went into effect over six years ago, a system, he said, was designed to fail. However, with the passage of the Mission Act two years ago, funds to pay for medical services are flowing into the state.
“Two years ago, the President signed the Mission Act which brought permanent choice for all veterans,” he said. “We have established networks across the country, particularly out here in the west, to begin paying our bills, but we were not paying our bills four years ago. With the partners that we have now, the payments are finally flowing into Montana, and we expect the system to become even more robust in the next few months.”
Wilkie said a new innovation to serve veterans and their health needs will be coming to a convenient place in Montana communities, your local Walmart.
“In this state, we have tested a new concept,” he said “We have put a remote tele-health clinic in Eureka Montana. What I expect you all to see shortly, is tele-health clinics going up in Walmart locations across the state, so it will be easier for veterans to access that care through that medium.”
Another reporter asked specifically when that service might begin, but Wilkie said the partnership with Walmart has already begun in the east and may take a few years before it comes to Montana.
Wilkie referenced the $32 million David J. Thatcher VA Center currently under construction on West Broadway that is scheduled to open a year from October.