WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), the lead Republican sponsor of the Deborah Sampson Act, continued his advocacy on behalf of female veterans by pushing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support the hiring of more women’s health providers and enhance data tracking of female veterans during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing.
The hearing focused on pending legislation before the committee, including the Deborah Sampson Act, a bipartisan bill that Boozman introduced with U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) to improve services and access at the VA for women veterans.
Boozman expressed gratitude for VA’s strong support of several of the bill’s provisions. He noted that he is particularly grateful for VA’s support of the bill’s efforts to create a pilot program for peer-to-peer assistance for women veterans and to expand support programs for female veterans who are homeless.
But while VA has indicated support for a large majority of what the bill sets out to accomplish, it has expressed reservations about two provisions in particular—one that requires at least one full time or part time women’s health primary care provider in each facility and a second provision that aims to improve data collection on the health care needs of female veterans.
Boozman stressed the importance of achieving these goals to the first panel’s lead witness, Dr. Jennifer S. Lee, the Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Services at VA. He encouraged VA to rethink its opposition to these provisions and asked Dr. Lee to elaborate on what efforts are currently being undertaken to address these concerns.
The Deborah Sampson Act addresses gender disparities at the VA to ensure that women veterans are getting equitable care. This legislation will provide enhanced access to VA care and ensure women veterans are getting the benefits they have earned through their service.
Additionally, this bill will address the needs of women veterans who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment, and go without needed health care.
The Deborah Sampson Act does the following:
- Empowers women veterans by expanding peer-to-peer counseling, group counseling 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 and authorizing medically-necessary transportation for newborns;
- Eliminates barriers to care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers and coordinators in VA facilities, training clinician and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment of care for women veterans;
- Provides support services for women veterans seeking legal assistance and authorizes additional grants for organizations supporting low-income women veterans;
- Improves the collection and analysis of data regarding women and minority veterans, and expands outreach by centralizing all information for women veterans in one easily accessible place on the VA website.
The bill is endorsed by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), American Veterans (AMVETS), Jewish War Veterans (JWV), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), National Military Families Association (NMFA), Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service (COA), U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA), Marine Corps Reserve Association (MCRA), Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), the Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).
The Deborah Sampson Act gets its name from Deborah Sampson, a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. She was wounded in 1782 and spent half of her life fighting to be recognized for her service. She is one of a small number of women with a documented record of military combat experience in the Revolutionary War.