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Jaime Herrera Beutler Secures Support for Female Veterans in Appropriations Bill

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Washington, D.C., June 15, 2017 | comments
Today, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s legislative provisions that address the growing demand for female veterans to receive maternity care and mental health support from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
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Today, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s legislative provisions that address the growing demand for female veterans to receive maternity care and mental health support from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Jaime also joined the committee in approving increased funding for the VA.

Jaime’s provisions to improve maternity and mental health care for female veterans were included in the Veterans Affairs funding bill for 2018 that today was advanced by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. The bill also increases funding for the VA by $5.3 billion over last year’s budget.

“Women have served our country courageously and we should ensure they are given the specialized care they have earned, which includes maternity care and critical mental health support,” said Jaime. “I’m pleased to help shape this bill that acknowledges the needs of our female veterans. For instance, they have higher rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mental health conditions than their civilian counterparts. Understandably, these mental health challenges can compound the difficulties of postpartum depression that is common among new moms. It’s time the VA stepped up their support for servicewomen by providing the necessary health care resources to female veterans, and the bill we put forth today represents significant progress.”

As an Afghanistan veteran and new mom, Ashleigh Byrnes, Deputy National Communications Director of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), said these provisions are personally meaningful to her:

“On behalf of DAV, I applaud Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for the inclusion of these provisions in the MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill. Just over one year ago, I had my first child. As a disabled Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan and is enrolled in VA healthcare, this provision will ensure my sisters-in-arms and I are receiving the healthcare we earned through service.”

Other organizations supporting Jaime’s efforts include Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health.

The provisions Jaime secured will produce the following results from the VA:

·         Report how many veterans are having babies and their birth outcomes;

·         Identify whether the overall needs of pregnant veterans are being met;

·         Assess whether mental health support services for pregnant veterans are adequate and identify any gaps so improvements can be made;

·         Develop an education campaign publicizing the maternity care benefit and make materials available online and at VA facilities;

·         Collect feedback from pregnant veterans who utilize maternity care benefits to identify barriers to accessing care

 

The importance of supporting female veterans: 

  • There are more women veterans now than ever before. However, the VA does not generally provide maternity care at VA facilities – they contract out maternity care patients to community providers.  

  • According to the VA Handbook on Maternity Health Care and Coordination, “In FY 2011 alone, over 90 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn women Veterans were of childbearing age; thus a significant potential for these veterans to require maternity care exists." 

  • The DAV Report, “Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home” stated, “Among the most prominent health care needs [of women veterans] reported are a variety of mental health conditions, including PTSD, generalized anxiety disorders, depression, suicide, substance abuse and sleep disorders.”
  • The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states, “Women with current depression or anxiety, a history of perinatal mood disorders, or risk factors for perinatal mood disorders are at increased risk for perinatal depression and warrant particularly close monitoring, evaluation, and assessment.”  

  • According to ACOG, an estimated one out of seven new mothers experience postpartum depression. Maternal suicide exceeds hemorrhage and hypertensive disorders as a cause of maternal mortality. 

  • Women veterans, particularly if they have been deployed to war zones and combat exposure, or military sexual trauma, are at an increased risk for mental health issues. That trauma also increases their risk for mental health issues, including depression during and after pregnancy.

 

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