Complex Medical Histories
“So many women veterans have complex medical health histories and challenges,” she explained. “Their veteran experience is really important, and VA can help train the providers that will be in their network to make sure that, if they’re seeing a woman veteran, [they know] the things we know about the woman veteran population. I think that’s going to be critical for VA to be a real partner.”
One bill—the Improving Oversight of Women Veterans’ Care Act—would require an annual report on women veterans’ access to gender-specific care from community providers. Yet, this legislation also lacks VA support.
“We understand why the committee would want to get a formal report on issues of concern to women veterans in [community providers],” Boyd said. “However, the data points required for the report would require the modification of contracts with community providers which, given the extent of care in the community, would be disruptive.”
Much of the other legislation targets specific areas of women veterans’ health. Three bills focus on improvements in reproductive healthcare, including eliminating copayments for prescription contraception, doubling the number of days of newborn healthcare for the children of veterans, and expanding emergency care coverage of newborns when medically necessary.
Women veterans seeking VA care are an average of 15 years younger than their male counterparts, and so are more likely to be of reproductive age, Brownley noted.
Another bill—the Building Supportive Networks for Women Veterans Act—would make permanent a VA pilot program that provides counseling in rural retreats for women suffering from post-traumatic stress.
“VA is enthusiastic about these retreats,” Boyd told legislators “We’ve received very positive feedback from participants who have learned that they are not alone, that they have learned to trust themselves and that they feel they are important.”
VA found the retreats so successful that they are requesting that the bill be expanded to include all veterans, not just women.
Another piece of legislation that VA did not support was a bill that would renew authorization for a study examining barriers to healthcare for women in VA through 2030. According to Boyd, VA does not lack data on what those barriers are, and an additional study would be redundant.
“We have in place an array of initiatives that recognize those barriers and aim to remedy them,” she declared.