BOZEMAN — About 600 student veterans attend Montana State University and Tuesday several of them got the opportunity to discuss what some of their biggest challenges have been.
“They’re interested in talking about local issues as well. So yeah, I don’t think it was a check-the-box type of thing. I think they took it seriously,” said Nick Dreyer, a student veteran.
The four-year army veteran was one of several students invited to a roundtable discussion with other veterans, United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, and U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
“Look this facility we have here in Bozeman, it doesn’t take a medical professional to understand this is antiquated, outdated, and we need something new and by the way, come August, we’ll have something new,” explained Tester.
And according to Secretary McDonough, the discussions will go beyond the four.
“We’re already in touch with the people in the room last night to make sure that we’re following up on the cases. The same will be true tonight and tomorrow morning. Moreover, we’re taking the learnings from these conversations back as we’re considering new regulations on the GI Bill, as we’re considering next steps on vaccinations,” said McDonough.
Real issues did come up in hopes of creating real solutions.
“We heard one young vet who was asking very concrete question about how in the time of the pandemic when he’s got both a house payment and rental payment and he’s not getting his full stipend from the VA, how can he make things work?” McDonough said.
Even access to the COVID-19 vaccine came up.
“That did come up. Here actually at the… I wasn’t aware of this until this forum today, but I know in the Billings Clinic veterans can go and get the vaccine there. So yeah, they definitely were talking about COVID vaccination, veterans, how they can get vaccinated, what the process is and everything,” Dreyer said.
The discussion at MSU was one of several stops across the state for the VA Secretary.