Bill to Aid Women Veterans

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A bill to help improve and expand health care services for women veterans, introduced in mid-March, is currently in the process of being referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. According to Betty Moseley Brown, a Marine Corps veteran who coordinates female veteran programs for the VA, the 1.8 million female veterans make up about 7 percent of the veterans population, a number that is expected to grow. Women veterans are the second-fastest growing segment of veterans behind elderly veterans, yet their health care needs often go untreated.

Bill S.597, sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash), calls for the Veterans Affairs Department to provide pediatric care for the newborn children of female veterans who received maternity care from the VA; provide group counseling for female veterans in alternative environments; and provide child care during mental health appointments; and expand professional training for mental health workers who care for women who suffered sexual trauma while in the service. About one in five women who seek treatment from the VA report that they experienced sexual trauma while in the military. Proving that mental problems are the result of sexual trauma or assault is especially challenging for women who did not file complaints at the time of the assault or the incident, according to Carolyn Schapper, an Iraq combat veteran and a representative of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
In support of the bill, women featured in the PBS [i]ndependent Lens documentary, Lioness, joined Murray and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) at a press conference highlighting the lack of veteran programs for women. Lioness features women from the U.S. Army’s 1st Engineer Battalion, the first in U.S. history to be sent into ground combat–a violation of official U.S. policy.
-LiAnn Ishizuka, David Wallechinsky
Lioness (PBS [I]ndependent Lens)


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