Senator’s Initiatives to Improve and Expand VA Mammography Services, Cancer Care Unanimously Approved
Mar 24 2022
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a pair of legislative initiatives championed by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee senior member U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to modernize breast cancer screening policies and the delivery of lifesaving care for women veterans.
The Senate passed the Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environments (SERVICE) Act on Thursday afternoon. This legislation would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct mammograms for all women who served in areas associated with burn pits and other toxic exposures regardless of age, symptoms or family history.
Also approved this week was the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act which would require the VA develop a strategic plan to improve breast imaging services, create a telemammography pilot program for veterans in areas where VA does not offer in-house mammography, and expand veterans’ access to clinical trials through partnerships with the National Cancer Institute.
“Early detection and treatment are key in the fight against breast cancer. Given the additional risk factors associated with toxic exposure, which we know has occurred in recent combat settings, the VA must update its policies so vulnerable veterans can receive mammograms. Taking full advantage of the VA’s unique capabilities and resources will help ensure they get the best care available. I’m pleased the Senate has taken this important step and I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to follow our example and quickly approve these bills so they can be signed into law,” Boozman said.
Boozman authored the Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act. The legislation is named in honor of Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas, a Marine veteran and public health professional who was unaware of her increased risk for breast cancer as a result of her deployment to Iraq. During a routine medical exam in 2018 she was advised to undergo a mammogram and was then diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 38.
“I could have used that information much earlier than I acquired it. We should be telling military women these things and arranging the standard of care for preventive medicine around these increased odds ratios. Put simply, I needed that mammogram sooner,” Dr. Thomas shared with the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in written testimony last summer in support of the legislation.
Passage of these bipartisan bills continues Boozman’s commitment to improving VA care and services for women. Last Congress, the senator led the successful passage of the Deborah Sampson Act, a bipartisan initiative to eliminate barriers to care and services many women face when accessing VA benefits. The landmark bill was signed into law by President Trump in January 2021.
The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act and MAMMO for Veterans Act now move to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.