Strengthening Programs and Services for Women Veterans
DAV continues to fight for equal access to benefits and quality health care for women veterans through legislation, policy and education.
Today, women are serving in the military in record numbers, representing more than 16% of active-duty military and 10% of veterans. As the fastest growing subpopulation of the military and veteran community, more women are turning to the Department of Veterans Affairs to address post-service health issues and readjustment challenges. Yet despite much recent progress, women veterans continue to face significant barriers accessing their earned benefits and still do not receive proper recognition for their service to the nation.
Advocating for Women Veterans Legislation
DAV was pleased to see a continued focus on women veterans issues in the 117th Congress, resulting in the passage of key legislation, including:
- The Protecting Moms Who Served Act, which dedicates $15 million to the VA’s maternity care coordination program and calls for a comprehensive study on maternal mortality and severe complications among women veterans.
- The MAMMO Act, which requires the VA to develop a strategic plan for improving breast imaging services for women and implement a pilot program to provide tele-screening mammography services, among other measures.
- The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act, which expands eligibility for mammography screenings to veterans who served in certain locations during specified periods, including those who were exposed to toxic substances at such locations, including sites known to have exposure to burn pits.
DAV has been invited to participate in all meetings of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Congressional Women Veterans Task Force since its inception in 2019. The task force has been instrumental in the passage of key legislation pertaining to women veterans’ issues, including the groundbreaking Deborah Sampson Act, a comprehensive measure aimed at improving women veterans’ health care. The law established the VA Office of Women’s Health to oversee women’s health programs as well as counseling and legal services.
Ending Sexual Assault and Harassment
It is important to note that one in four women veterans report having experienced some form of sexual harassment within VA—a troubling problem that requires the full commitment of department leaders to solve. The VA broadened its End Harassment campaign into Stand Up to Stop Harassment Now! and introduced a virtual bystander intervention training tool in all its facilities to teach staff and providers how to intervene when witnessing inappropriate behaviors. The VA also launched its White Ribbon VA campaign in 2019, designed to eliminate sexual assault and harassment within VA health care settings.
DAV delivered this information to our members and audiences through video messages, DAV Magazine and the DAV podcast, doing our part to educate all VA health care users about the importance of treating each other with respect and dignity. DAV also maintains an online resource page for military sexual trauma, or MST.
DAV’s Women Veterans Reports
DAV’s 2014 landmark report Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home and 2018 follow up, Women Veterans: The Journey Ahead, continue to be valuable resources that have helped usher in numerous policy and legislative changes to improve programs and services for women veterans.
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“The momentum is in favor of women veterans right now, and we want to harness the support and energy to continue driving meaningful reform to ensure all veterans have equitable access to the benefits and services they have earned.” – Joy J. Ilem, DAV’s national legislative director and U.S. Army veteran.