BY KATE O’HARE-PALMER, CHAIR
This issue of The VVA Veteran profiles some of the many women veterans in VVA and other public arenas who have helped over the past forty-plus years furthering legislation at national, state, and local levels to help women veterans services, benefits, and care. It takes a village, and through this group you can see how wide the net is to obtain women veterans’ goals.
On December 20 Deputy Director for Policy and Government Affairs Sharon Hodge presented a paper that we prepared for the Center for Women Veterans Advisory Committee. We included a brief history of VVA women veterans’ commitment as early as 1979, as well as our efforts on P.L. 102-585, the 1992 Veterans Health Care Act. We identified the need for a formal process to address issues for women veterans that resulted in 1994 legislation that created the Center for Women Veterans.
VVA has actively participated in the National Center for PTSD-Women’s Health Service Division and in VVA’s Homeless Veterans Committee. In 2000 it supported legislation for benefits to children with birth defects born to women who served in Vietnam and that made service-connected mastectomies eligible for VA Special Monthly Compensation.
In 2004 the Women Veterans Committee testified to make permanent VA authority for MST care and compensation for MST—not just compensation for depression or other DSM diagnoses related to the effects of MST. We supported the 2016 passage of H.R.6416, the Moran-Blumenthal Toxic Exposure and Research Act of 2016, and H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which included increased services to women veterans.
The Women Veterans Committee continues to establish legislative priorities and lobbies Congress to secure the passage of responsible legislation that women veterans have earned. We continue to push for updates on the child care pilot program in section 205 of P.L. 111-163, and the status of Section 401 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 as it relates to expansion of MST care and services at VA medical facilities for active-duty service members.
The committee supports the expansion of women’s reproductive health services, which includes infertility, menstrual and menopausal disorders, and reproductive health.
According to the February 2018 VA Sourcebook, the 55-64-year-old women subgroup grew seven-fold in the years 2000-15. This growing number of women veterans using the VA reaching 65 and older can be expected to increase drastically over the next decade. They will need more intensive chronic disease care. There also needs to be new programs to help with outreach of available senior housing for homeless, caregivers, and limited-income disabled senior women veterans.
Most women veterans would prefer to stay within the VA health care system, but the VHA predictions for increased utilization by our peers needs to be followed up with adequate staffing levels to help with this future geriatric care.