Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health and Women Veterans Task Force, introduced the Building Supportive Networks for Women Veterans‎ Act, a bill that would expand and make permanent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pilot program on counseling in retreat settings for women veterans coping with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and other wounds of war.

“Women now make up the fastest growing group of veterans enrolling in VA health care, and many of them face challenges with the invisible wounds of war, like PTS and military sexual trauma. VA needs to adapt to the complex and unique needs of our women veterans, and that means ensuring there are specific programs and resources to support them,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “My bill will ensure that VA’s highly successful women veterans retreat program continues and is expanded nationwide.”

The Building Supportive Networks for Women Veterans Act would permanently authorize the existing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pilot program that offers counseling and support retreat programs for women veterans who have recently separated from the military and expand the program nationwide. Under the pilot program, a total of 12 retreats were provided to hundreds of women veterans between 2011 and 2016, focusing on building trust and developing peer support in a therapeutic environment.

Data from VA has shown that many women who participated in these retreats have shown a significant decrease in stress and symptoms of PTS, better coping mechanisms, and better overall psychological well-being. Eighty-seven percent of participants scored higher on the Ryff Scale of Psychological Well Being immediately post-retreat, and eighty-four percent of participants showed a decrease in stress symptoms two months after their retreat.

For a copy of the full text of the bill, click here.

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