WASHINGTON—The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (VA) on Wednesday passed legislation championed by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that would improve VA care and services for women veterans.
The Deborah Sampson Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Boozman and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and help ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and go without needed health care.
“More women are answering the call to serve in uniform. The modern makeup of our veteran population requires us to reexamine how we can best serve their needs. Removing the obstacles women face to accessing the care and benefits they earned is necessary to fulfilling our promise to these veterans. We are one step closer to making the VA more accommodating to the unique challenges facing these brave former service members,” Boozman said.
“Women are the fastest growing population of veterans and VA needs to be fully prepared to meet their needs,” said Ranking Member Tester. “The landmark passage of our Deborah Sampson Act sends a very important message—not only to women veterans, but to the American public—that my colleagues and I came together during politically turbulent times to do what’s right. In this case, it means getting one step closer to providing critical support to our sisters, mothers, and daughters who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.”
There are 19,000 women veterans in Arkansas. According to VA data, women comprised nine percent of the nationwide veteran population in 2015. That number is expected to increase to more than 16 percent within the next 25 years.
The Deborah Sampson Act includes the following provisions:
- Empowers women veterans by expanding group counseling for veterans and their family members and call centers for women veterans,
- Improves the quality of care for infant children of women veterans by increasing the number of days of maternity care VA facilities can provide,
- Eliminates barriers to care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, training clinicians and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment of care for women veterans,
- Improves the collection and analysis of data regarding women veterans, expands outreach by centralizing all information for women veterans in one easily accessible place on the VA website and requires the VA to report on the availability of prosthetics made for women veterans.
The legislation has widespread support, including from Veterans Service Organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).