On Wednesday, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) applauded passage of several of her bills in the U.S. House of Representatives, which will improve healthcare services and benefits for veterans.
“As Chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health and Chairwoman of the Women Veterans Task Force, I have worked to improve conditions for all veterans, and especially closing the equity gap for women veterans. I am proud that a number of my bills passed the House today with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley.
“My bill, the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act, will make contraception care more affordable and therefore more accessible for women veterans. I’m also proud that my legislation to continue to address and end women veteran suicide and to help end veteran homelessness also passed today with bipartisan support.
“These are important steps forward, and I stand committed to continuing to make sure that all of our veterans receive all of the care and benefits they have earned and deserve.”
Among the bills approved by the House today are several of Congresswoman Brownley’s bills:
Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act (H.R. 3798)
“In 2010, Congress passed legislation to eliminate co-pays for basic prescription contraception in private-sector healthcare; and in 2019, Congress at long last provided servicemembers with the same benefit. It is long past time for us to ensure that women veterans are also afforded equal access to healthcare, including access to prescription contraception without a co-pay.”
The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act (H.R. 3798) allows women veterans to access basic contraceptive services, like the pill or an IUD, without a co-pay. The bill will ensure that they have access to contraception coverage on the same basis as women who receive their healthcare from the private sector or through the U.S. Department of Defense.
H.R. 3798 was previously approved by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on September 22, 2020 with broad bipartisan support. Today, H.R. 3798 passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support by voice vote. The legislation must now be considered by the Senate before it can go to the President for signature.
Homeless Veteran Families Act (H.R. 95, included in H.R. 7105)
“It is absolutely unacceptable that veterans with children are living out on the street or in other unsafe locations because VA can’t reimburse community agencies for housing them,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “This is an issue that disproportionately impacts women veterans. It is imperative that we fix chronic homelessness amongst our veteran population and help keep families together and safe, while providing long-term, stable living environments for veterans to thrive. This bill is one step towards that goal.”
The VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program offers funding to community housing agencies that provide services to homeless veterans. Currently, VA does not have the authority to provide reimbursements to these providers for the additional costs of sheltering minor children of homeless veterans. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that this inequity led to a financial disincentive for providers and, in turn, limited housing for veterans with young children. Brownley’s legislation would help address this issue by allowing VA to reimburse providers for 50 percent of the per diem costs of housing minor dependents of homeless veterans while the veteran receives services from the grant recipient.
H.R. 95 previously passed the House on October 15, 2019 in a vote of 408-0. Today, the bill again passed the House as part of a bipartisan package of veterans housing legislation (H.R. 7105). H.R. 7105 passed the House by voice vote, and it must now be passed by the Senate before it can go to the President for signature.
Brownley’s Women Veterans Suicide Prevention Legislation
“VA statistics show that women veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide than women who have never served,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “This is simply not acceptable. My goal is to ensure VA is equipped to adapt to the complex and unique needs of women veterans. The inclusion of my legislation in today’s bills will help illuminate resources available to women veterans and will provide meaningful change at VA that will help save lives and end the epidemic of suicide among our nation’s women veterans.”
Today, the House passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S. 785) and the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020 (H.R. 8247). Brownley authored several provisions from these bills, which also previously passed the House as part of Brownley’s Deborah Sampson Act (H.R. 3224).
Section 601 of S. 785 will require VA to expand the capabilities of the Women Veterans Call Center to include text messaging. This provision will add another tool to the VA toolbox, giving women veterans another avenue to reach out for life-saving mental healthcare counseling.
Section 602 of S. 785 would require VA to create a centralized webpage dedicated to providing information on the services and benefits available to female veterans. This provision will help women veterans access information about the healthcare and benefits that they have earned and deserve.
Section 301 of H.R. 8247 will require VA to complete an analysis of programs that provide assistance to women veterans who are homeless or precariously housed to identify the areas in which such programs are failing to meet the needs of such women. This provision will provide needed data to assist policymakers and inform future legislation to end veterans’ homelessness.
Section 302 of H.R. 8247 will require VA to report on the use by women veterans of health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This provision will provide policymakers with additional data to inform future VA legislation and policy to ensure women veterans receive needed healthcare.
S. 785 previously passed the Senate, and now goes to the President’s desk for signature. H.R. 8247 is soon expected to be passed by the Senate and go to the President for signature.