Tester, Boozman Intensify Efforts to Change VA Culture, Support Women Veterans
Senators Urge VA to Implement Reforms in Bipartisan Deborah Sampson Act
(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and John Boozman (R-Ark.) are redoubling their efforts to change the culture at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that has left too many women veterans behind.
The senators are urging VA Secretary David Shulkin to implement reforms from their bipartisan Deborah Sampson Act that fall within the VA’s existing authority.
“Women veterans are the fastest growing subgroup of veterans and are far less likely to go to the VA for care,” the senators wrote to Shulkin. “Our bipartisan Deborah Sampson Act included a number of provisions that are critical to ensuring equal access to benefits and care for women veterans. As this legislation continues to be pushed forward, we hope you will take these steps to make the VA more accessible and welcoming to women veterans.”
The senators urge the VA to implement four reforms that don’t require Congressional approval, including:
- Expanding the Women Veterans Call Center to include text messaging.
- Initiating a public-private partnership to enhance access to legal aid for homeless or at-risk women veterans.
- Prioritizing the hiring of women veteran practitioners and training existing staff to better address women veterans’ medical needs.
- Tracking women veterans’ interactions with the VA to better identify shortcomings in access.
Proponents of the Deborah Sampson Act support Tester and Boozman’s effort to expand VA services for women veterans while the bill gains momentum in Congress.
“Senators Tester and Boozman continue to display the type of leadership often missing these days in Washington,” said Allison Jaslow, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “IAVA partnered with bipartisan members of Congress on the Deborah Sampson Act to help the 2.2 million women veterans in America finally get the long-overdue recognition and care they deserve. As the Senators have outlined in their letter, Secretary Shulkin has the power to spur greater progress for women veterans without Congress forcing his hand. Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population, but often feel invisible. We encourage Secretary Shulkin to answer the Senators’ call for action and show the millions of women veterans that they too deserve the best support possible from a grateful nation.”
“Enhancing access to and availability of gender-specific programs to better serve women veterans remain a key priority for DAV,” said Garry Augustine, Executive Director of the Disabled American Veterans. “We fully support the recommendations Ranking Member Tester and Senator Boozman have outlined to more expediently enrich services for women veterans as we continue working together to create a more robust and welcoming VA environment for this rapidly growing population.”
The Deborah Sampson Act garnered praise and support during a Senator Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing in May. The bill awaits a Committee vote that would send it to the floor of the Senate for consideration.
The senators’ letter can be read HERE.