Congressman Leonard Boswell
As a 20-year veteran, having completed two tours in Vietnam, I have always worked diligently to be an advocate for our men and women who have served and continue to serve our great nation. On this Veterans Day, I salute the sacrifices that our veterans and service members have made to protect and preserve the freedoms and security that we all enjoy as Americans. I am also proud to reflect on the great work of the House during the 111th Congress to pass legislation that improves post deployment benefits for our armed forces members. Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line and on hold it is our duty to make sure they are taken care of when their job is done.
For this reason, I have introduced and supported legislation in the House to improve benefits for our veterans and service members. During this Congress, I have paid special attention to address the needs of the increasing number of women returning home from service. This is why I introduced the Women Veterans Access to Care Act and the Armed Forces Breast Cancer Research Act.
Women now make up 15 percent of the U.S. military. To date, 43.4 percent of eligible female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have turned to the VA for health care, and more than 85 percent of these women have visited the VA more than once for outpatient care. By 2020, 15 percent of veterans using the VA for health care will be women.
The Women Veterans Access to Care Act would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to emphasize four essential aspects of care for female veterans: physical health, mental health, improved tele-health services, and the hiring of health professionals who are specialists in women's health issues. It also directs the VA to conduct a study on health care for women veterans in order to identify the main causes of stress, determine the most effective method to reduce such stress, and evaluate the various private and public health care systems through which women veterans receive care
The Armed Forces Breast Cancer Research Act would require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to collaboratively study the incident rate of breast cancer in service members and veterans. This study would focus on the number of service members and veterans who have had breast cancer, the demographic information of those service members and veterans, an analysis of breast cancer treatments received by those members, and possible risk factors.
In addition, I supported two other bills that passed in the House to improve veterans' care. The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, H.R. 1016, requires a two-fiscal-year discretionary budget authority for the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that any delays in Congress to pass VA appropriations never hinder veterans' medical care. I also supported the passage the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 which would ensure service members will not have to repay the first-time home buyer credit if they are ordered to deploy to a different location and, as a result, forced to sell their home within three years of buying it.
This fall, Congress also executed oversight of the Post-9/11 GI Bill when some veterans who were eligible to receive college education benefits under this legislation were not receiving their funds in a timely manner. Congress worked with the VA to cut emergency checks to enrolled students so that they would be able to focus on their studies instead of their tuition bills.
As a fellow veteran, I am honored to represent our servicemen and women and our nation's veterans. During the upcoming months of the 111th Congress, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure we meet our obligations to our nation's heroes.