Congress approved a bill Wednesday that increases resources for homeless veterans, creates a Department of Veterans Affairs advisory committee for Native American veterans and mandates that every VA hospital hire a dedicated women’s health provider, among dozens of other measures. The legislation also includes numerous provisions for female veterans, Native American veterans, homeless veterans, student veterans, veterans experiencing the effects of toxic exposures and those affected by the coronavirus.
In an effort to improve services for women veterans, the bill creates a dedicated Office of Women’s Health at VA, provides $20 million to retrofit VA hospitals with women’s health spaces and makes permanent a program to provide childcare at VA facilities, among other measures. It also aims to help veterans suffering from military sexual trauma. In 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General reported that the department wrongfully denied benefits to thousands of veterans who filed claims for military sexual trauma — rejection that potentially caused stress and psychological harm, the IG said.
The bipartisan bill was backed by several national veterans’ organizations. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America pushed Congress to approve the measures for women veterans for nearly four years.