Companion legislation authored by U.S. Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) passed the House with bipartisan support

On Thursday, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act to eliminate co-payments for contraception covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The legislation is co-sponsored by a total of 20 senators, including Senator Angus King (I-ME).  While civilians can receive contraception without a co-pay through the Affordable Care Act and active duty servicemembers can receive health care—including basic contraceptive services—without co-pays through TRICARE, VA health care only waives contraception co-pays for a limited number of veterans.

“Throughout my Senate service, I have worked to ensure that America’s veterans receive the benefits, resources, and recognition they earned through their service to our country,” said Senator Collins.  “Under current law, women can obtain contraception without a co-pay through private health insurance, but not through VA health care. Our bill would support women veterans—the fastest-growing segment of our veteran population—by closing this loophole and eliminating co-payments for contraception for those covered by VA health care.”   

“This legislation will end unfair copays charged to veterans accessing essential contraception,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Providing these important family planning services to veterans without out-of-pocket costs – a right already afforded to their active duty and civilian counterparts – is necessary to protect their health, wellbeing and reproductive freedoms. With more women enrolling in the VA healthcare system and reproductive rights threatened across the country, this measure is more important than ever. I’m proud to lead my Senate colleagues in introducing the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act.”       

Under current law, only a restricted group of veterans, including 50 percent disabled veterans and veterans below specific income levels, are exempt from co-payments for contraception. This legislation will eliminate out-of-pocket costs levied against countless veterans.   

In addition to Senators Collins, Blumenthal, and King, the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The legislation was originally authored by U.S. Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) and was approved by the House of Representatives in June by a bipartisan vote of 245-181.

“Choosing when, or if, to have a family is essential to women’s health and to their economic security. The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act is another step toward ensuring all women have access to comprehensive contraceptive and reproductive health care,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “As Chairwoman of the Women Veterans Task Force, I am committed to identifying disparities in health care for women veterans and, where necessary, to introduce, advocate, and pass legislation that addresses those gaps. Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, it is past time we ensure all veterans have equal access to the health care, including contraceptive care, they deserve. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Blumenthal and my colleagues in the Senate to pass this crucial legislation and send it on President Biden’s desk.”

The bill is endorsed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Women’s Health Network, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Academy of Nursing, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Council of Jewish Women, National Women’s Health Network, and the National Women’s Law Center.

This story was originally published by the Sierra Sun Times on August 5, 2022.

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