Women Veterans Task Force Chair secures key legislative victories including the Deborah Sampson Act, along with four other bills to increase veterans’ access to care and benefits
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) applauded the passage of H.R. 7105, the omnibus veterans bill named for Senator Johnny Isakson and Congressman Phil Roe, M.D., which included the Deborah Sampson Act (H.R. 3224) and several other bills she authored. The banner accomplishment for the Women Veterans Task Force, the Deborah Sampson Act is the most comprehensive legislation for women veterans in a decade. The bill will help address the inequities and barriers that women veterans face when accessing VA care and benefits.
“This is an historic step forward for women veterans across the nation, as well as their families, caregivers, and survivors,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “We must provide all veterans the care and benefits they have earned and deserve – which requires providing equity to women veterans. By passing this legislation, we are telling our women veterans: you are not invisible.
“From addressing veterans’ homelessness and unemployment, to preventing sexual harassment and assault, to improving healthcare and benefits, the Deborah Sampson Act will propel VA toward providing true equity for our nation’s women veterans. As Chair of the Women Veterans Task Force, I’m extremely proud that the hard work of task force members, Senator Tester, Chairman Takano, and our nation’s veterans service organizations has culminated in passage of this critical legislation. I look forward to continuing the Task Force’s important work.”
“This is a groundbreaking moment as we push VA to provide better access to care and services for the nearly two million living women veterans across the country,” said Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester. “Women have served in uniform since the American Revolution and are now the fastest growing population of veterans in the country. It’s our responsibility to make sure VA health care and benefits are tailored to meet their needs and are accessible to them and their families. Unanimous passage of our Deborah Sampson Act sends a clear message to women veterans—and the American public—that Congress is willing to come together to do what’s necessary and follow through on this sacred duty.”
“This Congress, we established the Women Veterans Task Force, under Congresswoman Brownley, to ensure that our nation’s two million women veterans equitably get the care, benefits, and resources they’ve earned,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano. “Chairwoman Brownley’s Deborah Sampson Act is the result of years of tireless advocacy and will eliminate many barriers to care and services that women veterans face— I’m so pleased to see it in our End of Year package. By expanding access to care for women veterans, combating sexual harassment and assault, increasing cultural competency for all VA staff, and improving data collection, this is the most comprehensive legislative package for women veterans in over a decade.”
The Deborah Sampson Act:
- Establishes the Office of Women’s Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Ensures that gender-specific services are continuously available at every VA medical center and community-based outpatient clinic
- Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish policy to end harassment and sexual assault, including gender-based harassment, at all VA facilities
- Expands counseling programs for women veterans and their families
- Improves newborn and child care by increasing the number of days of coverage for newborns, covering emergency transportation, and ensuring that veterans have convenient, cost-free child care options when they have VA medical appointments
- Authorizes grants to support low-income women veterans and increases resources for homeless women veterans and their families
The end-of-year veterans package also included four of Brownley’s bills, which better support our nation’s veterans and their families.
“With a record number of veterans suffering the economic and health consequences of the pandemic, our duty to ensure that veterans have the care and benefits they need is more important than ever before,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “This comprehensive bill package will improve veterans’ access to an array of services and benefits. Ensuring every veteran receives the care and benefits they’ve earned is the least we can do in appreciation for their service and sacrifice to our country.
“As Chairwoman of the Women Veterans Task Force, it is my honor to fight every day to improve the lives of veterans. I am proud that several of my bills will be enacted into law and will bring us one step closer to ensuring all veterans have equitable access to a full breadth of benefits and resources.”
Other Brownley bills that were included in the end-of-year veterans package include:
- Reduce Unemployment for Veterans of All Ages Act (H.R. 444) – Legislation that would lift the arbitrary 12-year time limit on when veterans with service-connected disabilities can participate in the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program.
- Protect Veterans from Financial Fraud Act (H.R. 592) – Legislation that will help ensure that veterans who are unable to manage their own financial affairs are better protected from fraud and abuse.
- Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act (H.R. 840) – Legislation that would break down barriers for veterans to access healthcare by making permanent the VA’s Child Care Pilot Program and expanding it so that veterans across the nation who are parents, grandparents, or other caretakers of young children have a convenient, cost-free child care option when they have VA medical appointments.
- Homeless Veteran Families Act (H.R. 95) – Legislation to help provide housing for homeless veterans with children by providing a per diem to homeless veterans service providers for housing children of veterans.
The veterans omnibus bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature.
Background on the Deborah Sampson Act
Women have served in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War; among them, Deborah Sampson and Margaret Corbin, were the first American women known to have served in combat. In the early 1800s, Congress granted both women veterans pensions for their service. Today, there are over two million women veterans in the United States. They comprise the fastest-growing, and most diverse demographic in both the military and veteran population.
Despite centuries of honorable service and constant, steady growth in the veteran population since the start of the all-volunteer force in 1974, women who serve our country are still often treated as second-class servicemembers and veterans. A visible minority in the military, women too often are made to feel like they do not belong. Worse, the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system remains rife with barriers to basic care, like mammography and other gender-specific services.
The Women Veterans Task Force identified systematic deficiencies for women, including longer wait times, sexual harassment by fellow veterans, staffing shortages, and facilities that fail to meet basic environment-of-care standards. The Women Veterans Task Force also found that women veterans are largely satisfied with their care when it is properly resourced.
The Deborah Sampson Act is the result of several hearings, roundtables, site visits, and meetings with women veterans and advocates across the country to identify issues and barriers women veterans face when accessing care and benefits. The Deborah Sampson Act aims to create equitable access to healthcare, housing, legal services, and other resources and benefits.