Major women veterans’ care bill passes House, heads to Senate. Here's what's in it.

Photo credit Photo by SGT. Gruart/National Archives.

What could be the biggest, most significant bill for women veterans so far this Congress passed out of the House Tuesday and is headed to the Senate.

The Deborah Sampson Act is an omnibus bill intended to remove barriers and improve women veterans’ care and is in major part the effort of the recently-formed House Women Veterans Task Force. 

The Deborah Sampson Act includes measures to: 

  • Provide gender-specific healthcare equipment such as mammography machines at each VA;
  • Mandate a VA-wide sexual harassment and assault policy, including training for employees;
  • Ensure women veterans' primary care is available during regular VA business hours;
  • Establish an Office of Women's Health; 
  • Improve communications of women veterans' services;
  • Establish and improve care standards;
  • Provide more funding for women veteran programs;
  • Permanently authorize PTSD counseling for women veterans in retreat settings;
  • Expand eligibility for military sexual trauma counseling;
  • Provide extended care for newborns;
  • Require reporting on women veterans' services and benefits.

When it came time for the bill to be voted out of committee recently, the traditionally bipartisan House Veterans Affairs Committee erupted. Republican members stormed out of the hearing during the Deborah Sampson Act vote and accused the Democrat majority of trying to “silence” debate on amendments they offered. Minority members accused their Democrat colleagues of the type of partisanship they said has infected other parts of Congress since impeachment depositions began just steps away in the Capitol. 

Chairman Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., refused to allow amendments or debate on the Deborah Sampson bill before calling for a vote, which passed the bill to the House floor. Takano would later fire back at Republicans, accusing them of “walking out on women veterans” by refusing to vote on the bill. 

Ranking member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said minority members did not object to the underlying bill, but because of its broad scope, tried to include amendments to, they said, protect children at VA childcare facilities and protect veterans’ Second Amendment rights if a fiduciary handles their finances.

The Deborah Sampson Act now moves on to the Senate for a vote. If it passes there, it heads to the president’s desk for final approval. 

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Reach Abbie Bennett: or @AbbieRBennett.