Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act (H.R. 840) with overwhelming bipartisan support. This bill, introduced by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee, 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. Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY) was the original co-sponsor of the bill, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced similar legislation in the Senate on Monday.

“Keeping our promise to our nation’s veterans means not only providing the care our veterans need, but breaking down barriers to accessing that care,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “The lack of child care shouldn’t prevent veterans from receiving VA healthcare services. Ensuring veterans have access to child care is especially important for our growing population of women veterans, who are more likely to be taking care of young children. I am extremely pleased that the House passed this important legislation today, and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Murray and Congressman Higgins, who have been long-time leaders on this issue, to get this bill passed in the Senate and signed into law.”

In 2011, Congress created a pilot program to provide free child care for qualified veterans using VA healthcare services at a limited number of participating sites around the country. Since then, the program has been very popular with the veteran community. A VA reported issued in 2015 estimated that over 10,000 children had used the program through the end of FY 2014, and many more have used it since that report was issued. Women veterans used the service at a rate four times their population among the veteran community at large, indicating the program is working for the growing population of women veterans and their families. According to a VA Satisfaction Survey of veterans who have used the pilot program, a majority responded that, without the available child care, they would have brought their children to their appointment or cancelled their appointment altogether.

Congress has reauthorized this popular and successful program four times, and unless Congress acts again, it will expire on October 1, 2019. The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act would make the pilot program permanent and expand it to include every VA facility in the nation.

“In 2011 the Buffalo VA Hospital was included in a pilot program providing veteran access to childcare while attending medical appointments. The program was a tremendous success in removing barriers to care,” said Congressman Higgins. “Approval of the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act makes this program permanent and is a strong statement of support for our military families.  I’m pleased to work with my colleague Congresswoman Brownley, a champion for our veterans, to make this happen.”

“I am proud to support the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act as the first bill our Committee would bring to the House Floor because it addresses a sometimes-overlooked group of veterans—veterans who are parents and caregivers to young children,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA). “Addressing underserved veterans is a pillar of my VA 2030 vision: which will drive our work on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in the 116th Congress. Providing cost-free, safe, and convenient child care so that veterans can get the care they need is the least we can do to make their lives easier so they in turn can be loving parents and caregivers to the children who depend on them. We ask our servicemembers to risk their lives in service to our country, and in return, we promise to provide healthcare and benefits, so they can live happy, healthy, and successful lives, and provide for their families.”

“Part of fulfilling our promise to veterans is making sure their VA care is not only available, but accessible—and we know a lack of child care can be a huge barrier for veterans with young children,” said Senator Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “By offering child care at VA facilities, at no cost to our nation’s heroes, we can help ensure veterans receive the seamless care they deserve. I applaud Congresswoman Brownley and the new Democratic majority for making this legislation a priority in the new Congress, and on behalf of military families everywhere, I look forward to fighting to make sure it moves through the Senate and gets signed into law.”

This legislation is supported by Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Easterseals, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Fleet Reserve Association.

“Vietnam Veterans of America stands in strong support of the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act,” said John Rowan, Vietnam Veterans of America National President. “This bill would expand the very successful pilot program created in 2011, and in doing so help the VA to fulfill its mission to care for veterans and their families. It’s time that all VA facilities have access to childcare so that our Post-911 veterans don’t have to choose between the needs of their children and their own health.”

“Easterseals applauds Representative Brownley for her efforts to expand the availability of child care services at VA Medical Centers to make it easier for veterans with children to make medical appointments and to receive health care services through the VA,” said Angela F. Williams, a veteran and President and CEO of Easterseals, a leading provider of veterans services and inclusive child care and early education supports. “Easterseals is pleased to support the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act to help ensure veterans have full access to the care they need and are owed.”

“With the rapidly changing face of the US military, and as a result, our veteran population, IAVA has aggressively sought to fill gaps in care for women veterans,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Legislative Director Tom Porter. “If a veteran is precluded from getting treated for her injuries of war for lack of resources for childcare, we need to correct that gap in care. We applaud Reps. Brownley and Higgins for this excellent bill, squarely in line with our She Who Borne The Battle campaign.”

“Access to childcare should not be a barrier for veterans who need care to cope with their mental health conditions,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars Executive Director Bob Wallace. “The VFW applauds House passage of Representative Brownley’s Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, which would enable veterans to attend their mental health care appointments without having to worry about who will take care of their children. The Senate must pass this bill immediately to show they are also serious about improving access to care for veterans and eliminating veteran suicide. ”

“DAV believes that a fundamental need like child care should never stand in the way of veterans accessing needed health care services, and we have long called for VA to make their successful pilot child care program a permanent offering throughout its facilities,” said Disabled American Veterans National Legislative Director Joy Ilem.  “This is not only a benefit for veterans, but could help reduce cancelled appointments when veterans are unable to find supervision for their children. We fully support the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act in hopes that it will help eliminate the barriers that too often force veterans to choose between health care and child care.”

“PVA strongly supports H.R. 840, the ‘Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act.’ The availability of child-care is critical to ensuring a veteran’s ability to access health care,” said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director, Government Relations, Paralyzed Veterans of America. “A VA report from 2015, Barriers for Women Veterans to VA Health Care, discussed nine primary barriers, one of which was child care. Forty-two percent of women surveyed for the report said they had difficultly securing child care in order to seek VA health care services. This bill would help alleviate that key barrier and ensure the veteran is able to have both access to quality care and peace of mind.”

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