Chairwoman Lowey Statement at Female Veterans Access to VA Hearing
Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, delivered the following remarks at the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee's "Female Veterans Access to VA Hearing":
I would like to thank Chairwoman Wasserman Shultz and Ranking Member Carter for holding this important hearing, and I welcome Dr. Hayes and Dr. McCutcheon before the subcommittee this morning.
This subcommittee must address the challenges facing the Department of Veteran Affairs in delivering care and benefits to the men and women who have faithfully served our nation. As the number of women veterans increases, and with Service academies reporting record number of female cadets and larger numbers of women entering ground combat and Special Forces roles, the development of specific, more diverse health care needs are critical. It is imperative that we focus on the women veterans of today and tomorrow, ensuring equitable access continues throughout every stage of life.
Dr. Hayes and Dr. McCutcheon, I am encouraged by some of the steps the Department has taken with support from this subcommittee. Improving access to infertility treatments, maternity and newborn care; access to emergency contraception; women tailored prosthetics; and the Tele-women’s Health program are just some of the improvements. While these are encouraging, I am concerned there are systemic challenges at the VA that may divert attention from these and future efforts.
The VA recently reported almost 43,000 job vacancies across its health care system as of December 2018. This represents a 14,000 increase from 2017. With demands on the VA only increasing, these shortages are a troublesome trend. The system-wide strain will likely impact services our women veterans now rely on ranging from primary and reproductive to mental health and long-term care. Shortages of this magnitude may stall progress, lead to reductions in access, or delay preparations for a larger number of aging women veterans. The VA must maintain a focus on women veterans’ needs regardless of what challenges it faces now or in the future.
Thank you for appearing today, I look forward to your testimony, and thank you for your commitment to our nation’s veterans.