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Historic Women Veterans Bill Gains Momentum with Wave of New Endorsements

NEW YORK, NY (March 28, 2018) – While reports emerged that the White House was blocking VA from taking critical action to recognize women veterans by changing the VA motto, momentum shifted on IAVA’s historic campaign to recognize and support women veterans. Following its landmark Storm the Hill advocacy and leadership program this month, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading Post-9/11 veterans empowerment organization, is proud to announce the addition of 12 members of Congress as Co-sponsors supporting our effort to recognize and support women veterans. Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Donald McEachin (D-VA), J. Luis Correa (D-CA),  Barbara Comstock (R-VA), and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), as well as Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have now joined the bipartisan coalition of co-sponsors on the Deborah Sampson Act (S. 681). The new additions join more than 90 bipartisan leaders in Washington to co-sponsor this critical bill, led by Senators Tester (D-MT) and Boozman (R-AR). 

Along with changing the VA’s non-inclusive motto, the Deborah Sampson Act aims to fill critical gaps in VA care for women vets, including: funding peer-to-peer assistance and improved legal and support services; data tracking and reporting; and newborn medical care. The Deborah Sampson Act is named after Deborah Sampson, a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

“While leadership struggles continue at VA, and the White House blocks efforts to create a more inclusive VA, leaders in Congress are taking action to support and recognize women veterans. IAVA’s over 425,000 IAVA members nationwide thank the new leaders on the Deborah Sampson Act for stepping up to support women veterans at this critical time. Their leadership on the Deborah Sampson Act will add a tremendous boost to our efforts. In IAVA’s most recent member survey, only 27 percent of women veteran respondents felt that the American public respects their service,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. 

Storm the Hill showed us that, when we empower veterans, they can lead our country forward. This month, veteran leaders from across the country brought their voices to Capitol Hill and shifted the conversation, building critical momentum for this critical bill. Positive change will happen if Congress and all leaders in DC continue to listen to veterans, and stop politicizing them. We encourage all Americans to call on their members of congress to step up now and stand on the right side of history.” continued Rieckhoff.

Since the bill’s introduction, 18 Veterans Service Organizations have signed on as partners, and thousands of veterans and supporters have engaged their Members of Congress to encourage their support.

The Deborah Sampson Act does the following:

  • Changes the dated and exclusionary VA motto that currently reads, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and for his orphan.”
  • Empowers women veterans by expanding peer-to-peer counseling, group counseling and call centers for women veterans,
  • Improves the quality of care for infant children of women veterans by increasing the number of days of maternity care VA facilities can provide and authorizing medically-necessary transportation for newborns,
  • Eliminates barriers to care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers and coordinators in VA facilities, training clinicians, and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment of care for women veterans,
  • Provides support services for women veterans seeking legal assistance and authorizes additional grants for organizations supporting low-income women veterans,
  • Improves the collection and analysis of data regarding women and minority veterans, and expands outreach by centralizing all information for women veterans in one easily accessible place on the VA website.

She Who Borne The Battle: More than 345,000 women have deployed since 9/11. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population and that trend will continue as the number of male veterans simultaneously declines over the next decades. However, many female veterans are left without the proper care to support their needs when they return from their service. She Who Borne the Battle will change this by providing a foundation of public awareness, local support and policy changes solely targeted at supporting and empowering female veterans. Learn more at SheWhoBorneTheBattle.org.

 Eighteen powerful organizations have joined IAVA in support of the Deborah Sampson Act: Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, Disabled Veterans of America (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), American Veterans (AMVETS), Jewish War Veterans (JWV), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), National Military Families Association (NMFA), Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service (COA), U.S. Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA), Marine Corps Reserve Association (MCRA), Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

 

A fact sheet on The Deborah Sampson Act can be found here and full text of the bill can be found online HERE.

Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.