In Washington, we continue to advocate for legislation that will positively impact catastrophically disabled veterans and improve benefits for all our PVA members. Below we will discuss a few bills that focus on the needs of our women veterans.
PVA continues to advocate for the Making Advances in Mammography & Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act (H.R. 4797/S. 2533). The MAMMO Act would improve mammography services within the VA by implementing several new policies, including increased access to mammography screenings for veterans with spinal cord injuries or disorders (SCI/D). The MAMMO Act would require the VA to develop a strategic plan for breast imaging services within one year of the passage of this bill. That plan must cover the evolving needs of women veterans and address geographic concerns, and disparities between VA and community care. This Act would also require the VA to upgrade all VA in-house breast imaging services to 3D digital imaging tools. By upgrading imaging tools, the VA will be able to offer screening with higher sensitivity and lower false-positive rates, reducing the number of retests needed and lowering the stress among women veterans who may receive a misdiagnosis.
The MAMMO Act would also direct the VA to study and improve access to BRCA testing, a blood test that screens for DNA mutations that identify an increased risk of the development of breast cancer. Additionally, the legislation would require the VA to launch a telemammography program. By offering breast health screening virtually, veterans who lack access to mammography services, either because of location or their VA not offering services, should see increased access to this critical care. Lastly, the MAMMO Act requires the VA to study mammography accessibility for paralyzed veterans. Specifically, the VA would be required to analyze the accessibility of its in-house breast imaging services for veterans with SCI/D, the accessibility of the physical infrastructure for breast imaging facilities, and establish best practices for screening veterans with SCI/D. The VA will also be required to provide data on the screening rates for veterans with SCI/D. For community care rereferrals for these veterans, VA must confirm that community providers offer accessible screening equipment when veterans get referred outside of the VA.
On March 23rd, the MAMMO Act passed the Senate by voice vote, meaning that the bill only needs to pass the House to head to the President for his signature. If you'd like to tell your Representative to support the MAMMO Act, you can send them an email here.
Another piece of legislation we are advocating for is the Servicemember and Veteran Empowerment and Support Act of 2021 (H.R. 5666/S. 3025). This bill seeks to provide additional support for Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors. MST is an issue that impacts one in every 16 women and one in every 143 men. MST is a prevalent issue in military and veteran communities. The VA needs to be prepared to support survivors who might access benefits and mental health services due to their experiences.
The Servicemember and Veteran Empowerment and Support Act includes several important provisions. First, it defines MST for the digital age, meaning it would include forms of digital and online harassment and cover mental health conditions that might result from these types of experiences. This bill would also allow veterans to have their medical exam provided by a VA provider rather than a contracted provider and enable veterans to choose the location of their medical exam. Finally, this legislation would also mandate a review of VA correspondence, ensuring that the VA uses appropriate language that shows dignity and respect for survivors. To ask your members of Congress to support this legislation, click here.
The last bill I will cover is the Veteran Families Health Services Act of 2021 (H.R. 2734/S. 1280). This bill addresses fertility treatments, counseling, and other programs for veterans who experience infertility due to their military service. This bill would require the Department of Defense (DOD) and the VA to offer treatment and counseling to eligible veterans and active-duty service members or spouses, partners, or surrogates. This legislation would also establish procedures for DOD to perform gamete retrieval and storage before deployment for those who request it and require both the VA and DOD to establish best practices for fertility treatment and counseling. This legislation would also expand resources for adoption. To ask your members of Congress to support this legislation, click here.