President Biden signed into law on Nov. 30 legislation aimed at improving maternal health care for veterans. The American Legion-backed Protecting Moms Who Served Act was championed by U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill.
The legislation sailed through Congress, passing the Senate by unanimous consent and the House of Representatives by a vote of 414 to 9.
Among the highlights in the bill is a $15 million investment from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to upgrade maternity care for women veterans. Additionally, the law will commission the first-ever comprehensive report on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity among pregnant and postpartum veterans, with a focus on racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes for veterans.
The American Legion supports the bill through Resolution No. 147: Women Veterans. The American Legion seeks continued improvements in VA’s reproductive care and ensuring that the needs of women veterans are being met through comprehensive health services. Closing the gaps in areas of newborn, maternity and reproductive care ensures that women seeking healthcare through VA feel that it is a system built with them in mind.
Duckworth applauded the bill’s signing.
“I’m so proud that President Biden signed this bipartisan bill I introduced with Sen. Collins and Rep. Underwood, which would help address our nation’s growing maternal mortality crisis by helping ensure the pregnancy complications of all women veterans are not overlooked or ignored,” she said.
Collins said providing support for the nation’s veterans is one of the greatest obligations we have and one way to do this is through examining ways to improve care coordination, identify gaps in coverage and eliminate disparities, which the Protecting Moms Who Served Act does.
“The U.S. has an unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, and the impact of this crisis on women veterans is not well understood,” she said. “Now that our bill has been signed into law, the U.S. can help ensure that the brave women who have served in our military receive the maternal care they have earned.”
Underwood highlighted the high rates of preventable maternal mortality in the U.S. and noted that women veterans are uniquely at-risk.
“We must ensure that the VA is providing the highest-quality maternal health care and support to moms who served,” she said.
As demographics within the veteran community and VA change, the department continues to adapt to the growing number of women veterans seeking health care. As women remain the fastest growing veteran demographic, The American Legion will continue to advocate for Congress and VA to meet the unique medical needs of women veterans.
The Protecting Moms Who Served Act will lay an essential foundation as VA prepares to serve an increasingly younger, more diverse veteran population. American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard said this is just one step in the pathway to building a VA that better supports women veterans.
“Better coordination and service in prenatal, childbirth preparation and postnatal care are essential for women to feel confident in VA as the system evolves to better serve them,” he said. “It is also important for VA to approach this opportunity to improve by building in a system of care that clearly considers the unique needs of women veterans who may have confronted such military-connected issues as burn-pit exposure.”