Senator Patty Murray, (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has introduced bi-partisan legislation to prepare the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the influx of women veterans who will access care there in the coming years.
According to her office’s press release the bill, named the Women Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2009, will, “address unique needs of women veterans, provide improved care for Military Sexual Trauma, and explore the effects service in Iraq and Afghanistan has had on female veterans.”
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is the lead co-sponsor of the legislation.
“Women have stepped up to serve at unprecedented levels,” said Senator Murray. “Which means the VA is now faced with unprecedented challenges in caring for them as they return home. This bill addresses the unique challenges women face by providing specialized care for the visible and invisible wounds of war. As more women begin to transition home, and step back into lives as mothers, wives, and citizens, the VA must be there for them.”
Dave Gorman, Executive Director of Disable American Veterans (DAV) said, “While significant progress has been made in recent years to remove institutional barriers that often discourage women veterans from seeking assistance at VA facilities, more needs to be done.”
Co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lisa Murkowski (D-AK), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
Among other things, the legislation will:
· Require the VA to implement a program to train, educate, and certify VA mental health professionals to care for women with sexual trauma
· Require the VA Secretary to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the barriers women are facing in accessing care at the VA.
· Authorize a report to Congress on the effects the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the physical, mental, and reproductive health of women who have served there.
· Require the VA to begin a pilot program that provides child care to women veterans that seek mental health care services at the VA.
· Require the VA to begin a pilot program that provides readjustment counseling to women veterans in group retreat settings.
For Detailed Information on the Women Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2009 visit: http://murray.senate.gov/veterans/women-vets-2009.pdf