It’s called State of Veterans in Montana: A Regional Breakdown and you can find it on his senate.gov site.
I’ll be using that report to get most of the screenshots and numbers for veterans in Montana.
It’s a good resource and I encourage you to take a look at it – it’s only 26 pages and most of the pages are taken up by infographic-like images and charts and such.
I’ll also use some other sources to take a look at veterans nationally, as well as our military costs in general.
What the Tester report looks at are the following cities:
- Billings (18,083 veterans);
- Bozeman (9,738 veterans);
- Butte (6,634 veterans);
- Glendive (5,767 veterans);
- Great Falls (17,140 veterans);
- Helena (8,879 veterans);
- Kalispell (17,490 veterans);
- Missoula (15,916 veterans).
We have 99,646 veterans in Montana, or about 10% of the population. Of those Montana veterans, 92% are men and 8% are women.
“Overwhelmingly,” Tester writes in the introduction to the report, “Montana veterans tell me that once they get in to see a doctor at the VA, the care and attention they get from doctors and the VA staff is usually very good. But getting in the door can be all too frustrating for our veterans.”
There are 21.9 million veterans in America. That means Montana’s veteran population is just 0.46% of the nation’s total.
We can see in this report from the Department of Veterans Affairs that Montana is getting $731 million for all the unique care veterans in Montana need:
Nationally the VA is spending $59 billion a year on the healthcare for veterans.
This map shows you where those veterans are gaining or losing ground.
Clearly, the Midwestern and Southern states are responsible for our current veterans while New England and the Great Lakes region currently have much of our aging veteran population.
Here’s a map of where our current veterans care facilities are located in Montana:
Montana veterans are old.
In Montana 31% are 70-years old or more and 72% are over the age of 50. Just 15% are under 30 years of age.
Once again a set of statistics shows us what impact our young leaving the state has had.
Here’s an interesting image that tells us what wars our Montana veterans fought in:
Today the Greatest Generation and those who served in the Forgotten War are just 10% of our veterans in Montana.
Those that have served in Irag and/or Afghanistan account for just 12% of the state’s veterans. The first Gulf War makes up 13%.
The Billings area of the state has the most veterans, with 18%. Next up is Kalispell with 17.5% and then Great Falls with 17.2%.
Here’s what the state looks like:
The report really gets interesting when you see some of the stories that Jon Tester is hearing.
“A homeless Vietnam veteran from Billings in his 60s is struggling to overcome the worsening physical effects of Agent Orange, and his trips to the doctors are getting harder and more expensive when he can’t get to the VA. He reached out to Jon for help because he doesn’t have any family, friends or loved ones.
“A World War II veteran from Lewistown is struggling with PTSD and dementia. His wife recently contacted Jon after he moved into the State Mental Health Nursing Home in Lewistown because no other facilities could treat him. The VA did not have a contract with this nursing home so his family was forced to spend significant portions of their retirement income to allow the veteran to receive the treatment he desperately needed.”
“Sarah is a Montana veteran who was tragically a victim of sexual assault during her service in the Marines. Upon her separation from the service, she returned to Montana to pursue her education and potential job opportunities. She struggles to get the care she needs from the VA because they won’t property recognize the PTSD that she incurred as a result of military sexual trauma.”
“A Vietnam veteran from Butte who is down on his luck and battling PTSD and depression is living temporarily in a nursing home hours away from his family because of the lack of local services for veterans.”
“Deb is a veteran from Missoula, who happens to be one of the 175,000 known VA enrollees who live with Hepatitis C. Currently, she is unable to receive the treatments she needs in a timely manner because he is on a wait list driven by VA budget constraints.”
“A World War II veteran must often travel up to 200 miles to get his hearing aids adjusted. Because he is unable to drive, his 85 year-old wife must accompany and drive him to his appointments. This costly practice is beginning to take a physical and financial toll on the veteran and his family.”
These stories are unacceptable.
It’s because of these stories, however, that Senator Tester has:
- Increased travel reimbursements from 11 cents a mile to 41.5 cents a mile;
- Pushed through the Ruth Moore Act to make it easier for veterans to get disability benefits;
- Pushed through the Delivering Opportunities for Care and Services for Veterans Act to get more medical and mental health professionals to rural America;
He’s done a lot more and you can see two pages of legislation he’s sponsored or been a part of, all in the report.
Despite these changes, wait times for services remains a problem for many, though usually just for specialty care.
The wait in Bozeman is 21 days while in Kalispell it’s a whopping 40-day wait time.
Mental health wait times can be high as well, like the 12 days you have to wait at Fort Harrison in Helena. That’s too long.
Even primary care in Anaconda is taking 14 days, and that’s up from the 1.5 days it took back in January.
News Talk KGVO had a report in June 2014. It told us that Montana’s wait times were 3 times longer than the already-long 14 days veterans have to wait nationally.
Yes, veterans were waiting 47 days to get care.
Steve Daines got pissed at those wait times and wanted to get legislation through that would allow veterans to go to any doctor, with the VA footing the bill.
I don’t think anything substantive has been done to address this. And let’s not forget that if you’re a well-off veteran, Montana is a great place.
Just this year WalletHub put out a report calling Montana the #2 state for military retirees. It ranked #1 in health care, #12 in quality of life, and #31 for economic environment.
Nationally, veterans are doing well economically.
We know that just 7% of veterans live in poverty compared to the 14% of the general population that does.
As you can see, Montana has a very high veteran poverty rate compared to the rest of the country:
Despite this, just 8% of veteran households use SNAP food stamps nationally.
What can be done?
I have no idea. It seems that the VA is broken.
- On the one side we have those that want to do away with it and just go private.
- On the other we have those that say we need to fix it.
I’m glad I’m not a veteran.
Still, at least they get some care…and it’s free, right? That’s more than most Americans get.
While GlobalCorp would love for Americans to have that "us vs. veterans" attitude, the truth is that we could provide all of these veterans and all Americans with the best healthcare in the world.
We could do that at low costs and faster than anyone. We could provide it for everyone.
We choose not to.
We’re the richest and the best country in the world but we can’t even take care of our own people.
America is a joke, has been for years.
What is there to be hopeful about, I ask you? Wages remain stagnant, jobs remain hard to come by, the American Dream remains farther away than ever.
It used to be that you could go to war and change all that. War was America’s business, after all.
No longer – now it’s our curse.
Not for the arms dealers of GlobalCorp, however. They profit from our misery, from the misery of our veterans.
- The more veterans there are, the higher their profits.
- The more veterans there are, the higher the profits of the medical industry.
The real enemy isn’t some people whose language we can’t speak. The real enemy of America is the military industrial complex that Republican president Dwight Eisenhower warned us about.
They killed Kennedy, together with their cronies in the CIA.
Of course, now you have to discount and ignore and forget all that you’ve just read in this article because clearly I’m a nutcase.
Look around if you think I’m crazy.
Is America all it could be?
And if not...why?