American Legion National Women and Minority Veterans Outreach Assistant Director Keronica Richardson testifies before the House Subcommittee on Health Sept. 26 at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Legion testifies on pending health legislation

American Legion National Women and Minority Veterans Outreach Assistant Director Keronica Richardson testified before the House Subcommittee on Health Sept. 26 to present the Legion’s positions on pending bills that affect veterans.

“Since the American Revolution, women have volunteered to serve in the U.S. military,” Richardson said. “In fact, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the female veteran population accounts for 10 percent of U.S. veterans and that number is expected to grow to 15 percent by 2030.”

Women veterans are significantly different than their male counterparts, according to Richardson. Although the VA has made progress in providing gender-specific services, she said more work needs to be done.

House Resolution (H.R.) 93, which deals with medical services for women veterans, would amend Title 38 to provide increased access to care for women veterans at VA medical centers. Some of the issues that female veterans encounter include:

  • Obstacles in receiving gender-specific health care in rural areas;

  • The lack of female providers for military sexual trauma treatment and therapies;

  • A full-time gynecologist on staff; and

  • Female veterans are more likely than their male counterparts to be referred outside the VA system for specialty care.

“If enacted, H.R. 93 will require the VA to meet the health care needs of women veterans across the VA health care system,” Richardson said. “ When the VA is unable to meet their needs, the secretary may enter into contracts with third-party organizations to provide necessary services.”

The American Legion supports H.R. 93 and stands ready to assist Congress in increasing the care for women veterans at the VA medical centers.

Shifting focus to H.R. 2327, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2017, Richardson said the Legion feels it is important to make service dogs accessible to veterans who want an alternative treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Currently, the VA does not fund service dogs or recognize the use of therapy service dogs as a possible method to treat veterans suffering from PTSD.

“There have been multiple studies revealing that service dogs can provide many different forms of mental healing to veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war," Richardson said. “Service dogs can act as an effective complementary therapy treatment.

“PTSD has become an epidemic and the VA has estimated that between 11 and 20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq have PTSD. While the VA continues to stall with their dog-based therapy studies, veterans are being denied alternative forms of treatment.”

The American Legion supports H.R. 2327 because it allows for an alternative form of treatment for injured veterans returning home from war with traumatic brain injury and/or PTSD.

Richardson concluded her testimony by discussing H.R. 1063, The Veteran Prescription Continuity Act. This legislation would require the VA to continue supplying medications prescribed by a Department of Defense (DoD) health care provider, when the DoD health care provider determines that such pharmaceutical agent is critical for transitioning out of the military.

“The American Legion feels that this legislation serves in the best interest of transitioning servicemembers and veterans by allowing them the comfort in knowing that their medical treatment will continue even after their military discharge,” she said.