Tester, Boozman, Hirono, Collins Unveil Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Veteran Access to Breast Cancer Screening & Care

Senators introduce the MAMMO for Veterans Act to strengthen and expand life-saving mammography and access to cancer care for veterans nationwide

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are unveiling bipartisan, bicameral legislation today to expand access to high-quality breast cancer screening and life-saving care for veterans.

The Senators’ Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop a strategic plan to improve breast imaging services, create a telemammography pilot program for veterans in areas where VA does not offer in-house mammography, and expand veterans’ access to clinical trials through partnerships with the National Cancer Institute.

“The best way we can fight breast cancer is with early detection and top-notch preventative care—plain and simple,” said Tester. “That’s why it’s critically important that we expand every veteran’s access to high-quality cancer screening and care, no matter where they live. Our bipartisan bill will improve women veterans’ access to breast cancer screening and treatment, lead to earlier detection of cancers, and ultimately save lives.”

“The VA is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the fight against breast cancer. By harnessing the research and technology available nationwide, the Department can be better-suited to address the needs of breast cancer patients across the country. Upgrading the VA’s breast cancer imaging capability and expanding its services is key to prevention and treatment,” said Boozman. “I’m pleased to continue our commitment to ensuring veterans have access to the best cancer care available and build on the momentum of the landmark Deborah Sampson Act so we can provide women veterans with the VA resources and specialty care they need.”

“As women become a larger share of our veteran population, it is increasingly critical that VA take steps to make sure women veterans receive the care and attention they’ve earned,” said Hirono. “The MAMMO for Veterans Act takes steps that will increase access to these resources for those in rural areas, makes important upgrades to VA’s infrastructure, and fundamentally changes the Department’s approach to breast cancer. This bill will save women veterans’ lives.”

“We owe it to our veterans to provide them with the high-quality health care they have earned through their service to our country,” said Collins. “By improving breast cancer detection and prevention services at the VA, our bipartisan bill would better support those affected by this devastating disease and promote the health and well-being of our veterans.”

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee members Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Congresswoman Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) are leading a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

“VA has always been a leader in quality care and at the forefront of medical research for issues impacting veterans,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “The MAMMO for Veterans Act ensures that VA remains a top healthcare provider and expands partnerships for veterans’ breast cancer care, research, and clinical trials with the NIH National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense. Breast cancer screenings and care are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our women veterans. An estimated 700 women veterans enrolled in VA health care are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. We must prioritize this issue and ensure that every veteran has access to the comprehensive care they need at VA facilities across our country.”

The MAMMO for Veterans Act would also require VA to upgrade all in-house breast imaging to 3D mammography, which is considered the gold standard imaging technology for mammography. It would also direct VA to expand partnerships for clinical trials and research on breast cancer care, and emphasize improving access to care for women veterans, rural veterans, and disabled and paralyzed veterans.

Numerous Veterans Service Organizations praised the Senators’ efforts to improve and expand veterans’ access to critical breast cancer screening and treatment.

“With a growing number of veterans seeking care, it’s imperative we expand access to quality mammography care and services in areas where they’re most needed,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Deputy Director of National Legislative Services Tammy Barlet. “The VFW strongly supports the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act, which would require VA to develop a breast imaging strategic plan, upgrade to 3D mammography, and streamline veterans’ electronic medical records. This bill is a necessary step in improving mammography care for veterans in rural areas across the country, and we’re thankful to Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for making this issue a bipartisan priority.”

“Women veterans may be exposed to a variety of toxic and environmental hazards during military service that put them at risk for developing breast cancer, making early detection a critical component of their health care,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “DAV applauds Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for introducing the bipartisan Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act which will ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs has a plan for making high-quality, potentially life-saving breast imaging services more accessible to women veterans.”

“The American Legion is pleased to support the MAMMO for Veterans Act,” said American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford. “Women are the fastest growing demographic in the armed forces and veteran community. VA must plan for these demographic shifts to ensure that women veterans are provided high-quality gender-specific care and resources. The MAMMO for Veterans Act will help to achieve this goal. We thank Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for their legislative efforts to increase access to gender-specific care for women veterans and hope to see this legislation signed into law swiftly.”

“Ensuring disability access to breast imaging services for veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D) is a critical part of providing proper health care to our members,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Associate Executive of Government Relations Heather Ansley. “PVA commends Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for introducing the MAMMO for Veterans Act which would improve breast imaging access for veterans with SCI/D and other disabilities by requiring an access study on VA’s imaging capabilities, measurement of breast cancer screening rates, and assurances that community care providers are able to provide screenings accessible to veterans with catastrophic disabilities.”

“IAVA is proud to support the MAMMO for Veterans Act as it can be a struggle for women veterans to access high-quality mammography and breast cancer care,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Butler. “It can be especially difficult for rural veterans to seek VA healthcare services due to their location. This legislation would help to ensure that veterans living in remote areas still have access to mammogram services.”

“Wounded Warrior Project proudly supports the MAMMO for Veterans Act,” said Wounded Warrior Project President of Government and Community Relations Project Jose Ramos. “This legislation will markedly improve access to potentially lifesaving care for women veterans, especially those in rural areas who may struggle to reach timely and convenient health care. One in eight women veterans in the VA health care system develop breast cancer in their lifetimes; they deserve the most innovative and effective treatment, research, and preventative care. Wounded Warrior Project thanks Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for championing this vital effort.”

“MOAA is grateful to Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for their leadership in addressing the health care needs of all veterans particularly women and men requiring breast cancer screening and treatment,” said Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) President and Chief Executive Officer Lieutenant General Dana T. Atkins. “Their bill, the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options for Veterans Act, goes a long way in providing the necessary structure and oversight for improving and modernizing breast imaging services across VA’s health care system. MOAA is especially pleased to see attention given to addressing veterans’ needs in rural communities and/or states where VA does not provide breast imagining services or where cancer treatment resources are limited. With the incidence rates of breast and other cancers being significantly higher in the military population across race and gender, the timing of this legislation is critical to the long-term health and wellbeing of those who serve and have served in uniform.”

“Vietnam Veterans of America fully supports the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act which will broaden access to high-quality mammography and breast cancer service for all veterans,” said Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chair of the Women Veterans Committee Kate O’Hare Palmer. “VVA commends Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for introducing this bipartisan legislation to help the high number of veterans diagnosed with breast cancer, and ensure they receive the highest quality care available, no matter their geographic location and proximity to the nearest VA medical facility.”

“The National Rural Health Association applauds Senators Tester, Boozman, Hirono, and Collins for their work to improve veterans’ access to high-quality mammography and breast cancer care, specifically for veterans in rural communities,” said National Rural Health Association Chief Executive Officer Alan Morgan. “The Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act will improve access to screening, care, and treatment for rural veterans’ by allowing for care partnerships to be created via telehealth. Veterans are the backbone of rural America, and ensuring their wellbeing and access to critical services like mammography and breast cancer care is essential.”

Full text of the MAMMO for Veterans Act can be found HERE.