The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Thursday approved by voice vote legislation that would improve health care for female veterans, the Tacoma News Tribune reports. The bill (S 2799) would require new studies about the problems women face when seeking treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs and expand staff and training for VA personnel attending to female patients. VA, along with the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, would be commissioned to study health consequences for women returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a VA pilot program would be created to provide child care services for female veterans requiring intensive outpatient care. The measure also would authorize new programs to improve care for victims of military sexual trauma.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said, "While women are playing an increasing role in our military ... they make up a small fraction of those receiving care at the VA," adding, "We need to ensure that women have equal access to VA health care benefits and services and that the VA health care system is tailored to meet the unique needs of women veterans." The number of female veterans seeking VA care is expected to double within five years. There are currently about 1.7 million female veterans, who comprise more than 7% of the nation's nearly 25 million veterans. More than 250,000 women have served in Iraq or Afghanistan (Blumenthal, Tacoma News Tribune, 6/27). "Planning for the wave of new women veterans is going to be a difficult and complex task, but this bill gets us on the right track," Murray said (Baltimore Sun, 6/27).

VA officials told lawmakers that they already have begun efforts to improve care for women and that they opposed many provisions of Murray's bill. The measure was combined with others into omnibus legislation for the voice vote. According to the News Tribune, "Prospects of the bill reaching the Senate floor were uncertain, with the chamber's legislative calendar already jammed and lawmakers hoping to go home in the early fall to campaign" (Tacoma News Tribune, 6/27).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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