Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Deborah Sampson Act, legislation authored by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), which will address inequities and barriers that women veterans face when accessing VA care and benefits. The bill is named after a Revolutionary War veteran, Deborah Sampson Gannett, who served in the Continental Army from 1782-1783 and was awarded a full military pension for her military service after years of petitioning Congress.
“Earlier this year, I launched the Women Veterans Task Force with the goal of ensuring that VA is equipped to adapt to the complex and unique needs of women veterans, the fastest growing and most diverse demographic within the veteran community. The Deborah Sampson Act is the result of several hearings, roundtables, site visits, and meetings with women veterans and their supporters across the country to identify issues and barriers they face” said Congresswoman Brownley.
“By passing this bill in the House with such strong bipartisan support, we are sending the message to America’s women veterans that ‘we see you, and we thank you for your service.’ Together, we will continue working together to ensure that we are supporting and honoring women veterans and transforming VA so that all of our nation’s veterans receive the benefits and services they have earned and deserve.”
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. Women veterans are remarkable Americans and deserve equitable access to the benefits and resources that they have earned. The Deborah Sampson Act aims to create equitable access to healthcare, housing, legal services, and other resources and benefits.
The Deborah Sampson Act incorporates and builds upon the following bills to create an updated and comprehensive bill:
- H.R. ___ (Brownley) — A draft bill which would establish the Office of Women’s Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- H.R. 3636 (Underwood) — Caring For Our Women Veterans Act, which would require the Secretary to submit to Congress reports on the use of VA healthcare by women veterans, on the various models of healthcare facilities for women’s primary health care, and staffing of women’s primary healthcare.
- H.R. 4096 (Correa) — Improving Oversight of Women Veterans’ Care Act, a bill which would require an annual report on veteran access to gender-specific services under community care contracts.
- H.R. 3036 (Rose) — Breaking Barriers for Women Veterans Act, which aims to improve VA’s delivery of healthcare for women veterans including by authorizing additional funding for primary care and emergency care clinicians in VA’s Women Veterans Health Care Mini-residency programs, the establishment of women veteran training module for non-VA health care providers, a study on staffing women veteran program managers, and a report on retrofitting VA facilities to address women veterans’ health care.
- H.R. 2972 (Brindisi) — A bill which would improve VA communications relating to services available for women veterans.
- H.R. 3224 (Brownley) — Women Veterans Equal Access to Quality Care Act, which would ensure that gender-specific services are continuously available at every VA medical center and community-based outpatient clinic.
- H.R. 2645 (Lee) — Newborn Care Improvement Act, which would extend coverage of healthcare for newborn children of veterans from 7 to 14 days.
- H.R. 3867 (Velazquez) — Violence Against Women Veterans Act, which would improve the VA delivery of services and benefits for veterans who experience intimate partner violence or sexual assault.
- H.R. 2982 (Cunningham) — A bill which directs the VA to conduct a study on the barriers to healthcare women veterans face at VA facilities.
- H.R. 4554 (Brownley) – Stop Harassment and Assault and VA Act, which requires the Secretary to establish a comprehensive policy to end harassment and sexual assault, including gender-based harassment, at all VA facilities.
- H.R. 2924 (Levin) — Housing for Women Veterans Act, which authorizes Supportive Service for Veteran Families grants to be available for the provision of financial assistance to organizations that have a focus on providing assistance to women veterans and their families.
- H.R. 3189 (Wild) — Improving Legal Services for Female Veterans Act, which establishes a partnership between the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and at least one nongovernmental organization to provide legal services to women veterans.
- H.R. 2752 (Allred) — VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act, which would ensure eligible newborns have access to VA care in emergency situations or when the newborn is delivered in a non-VA facility, expand the amount of time veterans are eligible to receive newborn care, and authorize VA to cover transportation of the veteran and newborn between medical facilities.
- H.R. 2798 (Brownley) — Building Supportive Networks for Women Veterans Act, which would expand and make permanent a VA pilot program on reintegration and readjustment counseling in retreat settings for women veterans and their families.
- H.R. 2681 (Pappas) – Legislation requiring VA to assess the availability of prosthetics specifically for women veterans.
- H.R. 4165 (Delgado) — Improving Benefits for Underserved Veterans Act, which would require VA to publish a report, disaggregated by sex and minority group member status, regarding veterans who receive benefits, including the Transition Assistance Program; and identification of any disparities in benefits usage, and provide recommendations to address those disparities.