Veterans from Across Montana Announce Support for I-185

(Helena, Mont.) – Veterans from across the state are uniting behind the Healthy Montana Initiative, I-185, which will raise the state tobacco tax to prevent 100,000 Montanans including thousands of veterans and their families from losing access to health care.

“Unfortunately, the big tobacco companies opposing I-185 are pitting veterans against veterans in order to protect their profits. The truth is: I-185 will dedicate more than $4 million in new tobacco revenue for veterans’ services, an 83 percent increase in what is currently funded by the tobacco tax,” said Don Loranger, Retired U.S. Air Force Major General of Big Fork. “The Big Tobacco companies don’t want Montanans to realize that thousands of Montana veterans and their families stand to lose access to their current health care coverage without I-185.”

In launching Veterans for I-185, the group is releasing a series of videos from veterans speaking to their experience with both Big Tobacco targeting the military as well as the need to ensure thousands of Montana veterans do not have their current health care taken away. The first video features retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Richard Liebert of Great Falls. View video HERE.

Montana has one of the highest percentages of veterans in the nation, with nearly one out of every ten Montana residents identifying as a veteran.Prior to Medicaid expansion, Montana had the highest percentage of uninsured veterans in the nation.Approximately 9,500 Montana veterans and their families will lose Medicaid eligibility without I-185.2

I-185 dedicates more than $2 million annually from new tobacco tax revenue for veterans’ health services including suicide prevention, as well as, an additional $2.4 million dedicated to veteran’s nursing homes. This represents an 83% increase in tobacco tax revenue dedicated to funding for veterans’ services.

Between 2013 and 2016, more than 200 Montana veterans died by suicide. This rate far surpasses the non-veteran suicide rate.5

An independent nonpartisan agency guarantees the funds raised from I-185 will go to health care and vital services for veterans and their families. I-185 will also keep 100,000 Montanans from losing their current health care coverage including thousands of veterans and their families.

Two multinational tobacco corporations have poured more than $12.4 million into the opposition to I-185 in an effort to protect their profits. This is more outside money than has ever been spent to derail a citizens initiative in Montana. Altria (Philip Morris) and RAI (R.J. Reynolds) were also found by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) in violation of Montana campaign finance laws as part of their massive campaign in opposition to I-185.


Key Facts About Medicaid & Veterans

Fact: Based on analysis conducted prior to Medicaid expansion, approximately 9,500 Montana veterans and their families eligible for coverage stand to lose eligibility without I-185.2

Fact: Montana has one of the highest percentages of veterans in the nation, with nearly one out of every ten Montana residents identifying as a veteran.3

Fact: Prior to Medicaid expansion, Montana had the highest percentage of uninsured veterans in the United States.

Fact: Prior to Medicaid expansion, an estimated 15.7 percent (or 7,000) of veterans’ family members in Montana were also uninsured, which is also the highest percentage nationwide.2

Fact: Because the VA only has one main medical center in the state, Medicaid gives veterans and their family members who live in rural communities access to care closer to home.4

Fact: 24 percent of Montana veterans are not eligible for VA health care.

Fact: Nationally, nearly 1 in 10 veterans relies on Medicaid.1

Fact: In 2015, only 40 percent of all eligible veterans were enrolled in the VA health care system.1


Founding members of Veterans for I-185:

Aart Dolman, Former Sergeant, U.S. Army and U.S. Airforce | Great Falls

Alex Taft, Former Lieutenant, U. S. Navy | Missoula

Alex Ward, U.S. Marine Corps | Billings

Andrew Person, Former Captain, U.S. Army | Missoula

Bill Warden, Former Sergeant, U.S. Army | Bozeman

Carla Lott, Former 1stLieutenant, U.S. Army | Helena

Craig McClure, Former Aviation Storekeeper, U.S. Navy | Polson

Debra Orozco, Former Petty Officer 2ndClass, U.S. Navy | Arlee

Don Loranger, Retired Major General, U.S. Air Force | Big Fork

Gene Sorrell, Former Specialist 1st Class, U.S. Army | Evaro

George Parisot, Former 1stLieutenant, Army National Guard | Helena

Hugh Dundee, Former Corporal, U.S. Marines | Great Falls

Jeff Ashe, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy | Kalispell

John Nordwick, Former Corporal, U.S. Marines | Helena

Larry White, Former Captain, U.S. Air Force | Missoula

Mike Farmer, Former Lieutenant, U.S. Navy | Polson

Quint Nyman, Former Corporal, U.S. Marines | Helena

Rich Bell, Former Captain, U.S. Marines | Polson

Rich Liebert, Retired Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army | Great Falls

Rick Orozco, Former Chief Petty Officer, U.S. Navy | Arlee

Sheila Bell, Former U.S. Navy Corpsmen | Polson

Media Contact:

Kathy Weber


  1. Families USA, “Cutting Medicaid Would Hurt Veterans.”vLink:
  2. Montana Budget & Policy Center report, “Medicaid Expansion Would Benefit Montana’s Veterans.” Link:
  3. Veterans Health Administration, “Montana Veteran Demographics” Link:
  4. Montana Health Foundation Report, “The Importance of Montana’s Proposed Medicaid Expansion to Veterans.” Link:
  5. Montana Department of Health and Human Services, “Veteran Suicide 2013 – 2016.” Link: