Update: The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) applauds the U.S. Senate for unanimously approving S. 1963 in November 2009, which creates a comprehensive new program to support family caregivers of severely disabled veterans, and strengthens VA health care programs for women veterans, homeless veterans, veterans with mental health needs, and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury.
DAV National Commander Robert "Bobby" Barrera commented that, "S. 1963 contains landmark provisions that will help ensure that women veterans, who have played an increasingly essential role in our military, receive quality, timely and gender-appropriate health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), equal in every respect to that afforded male veterans.”
S. 1963 combines the content of two measures previously approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, S. 252 and S. 801, into a single VA health care omnibus bill. Since the House of Representatives has already passed similar, but separate veterans health bills, the two bodies must now reach an agreement on identical legislation before it can be sent to the President for his approval.
“DAV looks forward to working together with the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees and other interested veterans service organizations to develop the strongest veterans health care legislation we can to aid all veterans,” Commander Barrera said. “In particular, we believe that disabled veterans from all eras could benefit from family caregiver support services and will work to see that the final legislation moves in that direction,” he said.
Commander Barrera expressed DAV’s gratitude to several Senators who played leading roles in developing and moving the legislation successfully through the Senate including Senator Patty Murray, who Barrera appluaded for her "relentless efforts to enact legislation that will improve the lives of all veterans, especially women veterans. Senator Murray’s landmark women veterans health care legislation was included within S. 1963, and her passionate advocacy for women veterans has been crucial throughout this process.”
Issue: Just as battle techniques have changed, so has the composition of the military and women’s roles in it. More than 102,000 women veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (OIF/OEF) have separated from the military, and so far, more than 44% of them have enrolled for VA health care.
Over the next five years, the number of women using VA health care services will double. According to VA, women veterans receive lower quality health care than men, and do not consistently receive the recommended care to meet VA standards. This is unacceptable.
VA’s model of care, which was designed for men, does not effectively address the unique medical needs of women nor does it address or treat the effects of military sexual trauma. VA has moved away from comprehensive women's health clinics, and favors a health services model that is fragmented and fails to address the physical and mental health care needs of women veterans.
Legislation is needed to ensure women veterans' health programs are created, assessed and enhanced so there is equal access, quality, safety, and satisfaction among male and female veterans.