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Public Statements

Military Construction And Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - June 15, 2007)

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Mrs. WILSON of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill for FY 08. My amendment would devote $2 million dollars from the Department Administration General Operations Expenses Account, of the nearly $1.6 billion appropriated in this bill, to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. The intent of my amendment is that the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans would establish a commission to evaluate and make recommendations for improvements to the VA system so that it can better meet health care needs of women veterans.

In 1978, I purchased a one-way ticket to Colorado Springs, Colorado to enroll at the Air Force Academy. I was in the third class that accepted women into our service academies. I am the only woman veteran serving in the Congress. Women face different obstacles than men when trying to receive care from the VA. To start with, many women who have served in the military don't call themselves ``veterans'' and many women don't think of the VA as ``their'' system.

A larger number of women are serving in military and in the future we will see a higher number of women veterans. One in seven Americans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan is a woman.

My goal in proposing this amendment is to bring together a group of people who can truly devote the time and effort to study the needs and examine the challenges our women veterans face. They then can report to Congress their finding and recommendations so that we, as a body, can evaluate these findings and implement improvements and initiatives to ensure women receive the care they have earned.

I introduced legislation similar to my amendment, H.R. 2394, the Bipartisan Commission on Wounded Women Veterans. This amendment would fund the commission envisioned in H.R. 2394.

I am grateful to all who serve their nation and we as a Congress have a responsibility to ensure they receive the best possible care. In this war on terrorism, the greatest burdens have fallen on the shoulders of a relatively small number of Americans who have volunteered to take great risks on our behalf. Events over the last few years have made a new generation of Americans realize just how precious our freedoms really are. We owe our freedom fighters--past, present, and future--a debt of gratitude for their selflessness and sacrifice. I will continue to fight to ensure that our veterans get the benefits they were promised, the health care they deserve, and the recognition that our Nation owes them.

Thank you for the time and I ask for a yes vote on my amendment.

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Mrs. WILSON of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill this year.

My amendment would designate and devote $2 million from the Department of Administration general operations expenses account. This is a very large account. The President requested $1.4 billion for that account. This body is appropriating $1.6 billion for that account, and what it does is fence that money and say that $2 million of this must be devoted and appropriated to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.

The intent of this amendment is that the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans would undertake a special effort, through a task force or special commission, to study and make recommendations on the health care needs of women veterans. All of us are concerned about whether the veterans health care system is meeting the needs of this newest generation of veterans. But there is a special category of veterans that I think sometimes gets overlooked.

In 1978, I got a one-way ticket to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the third class with women at the United States Air Force Academy. And I walked up a ramp, and over that ramp was a big sign in aluminum letters that said, ``Bring Me Men.'' That sign stayed there for 20 years after women were admitted to the Air Force Academy. It's gone now, but some of us as women veterans feel that maybe the VA hospitals have a similar sign over their doors, if not literally, then certainly figuratively.

I am the only woman veteran serving in the Congress. And women veterans face different obstacles than men and have different health care needs than men when they start to get care from the VA. To start with, many women don't even consider themselves or call themselves veterans, and they don't think of the VA as their system.

A larger number of women are serving in the military, and in the future we are going to see higher numbers of women veterans, and they will face different problems and challenges as they age. One in seven veterans of the current war on terrorism, one in seven Americans who are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan is a woman, and yet the VA health care system is very oriented towards the health care needs of men.

Just let me give you one example. If you are a veteran and you go to the VA for a clinic on PTSD, if everyone else in that group is a guy, are you really getting the care that is appropriate to you? A lot of women veterans don't feel comfortable in those settings. They are not sure that the OB/GYN care is what they need. If they face osteoporosis, they're not sure that the VA is where they should be. Or if they face problems with cancers particular to women, is the VA going to meet their needs?

My goal in proposing this amendment is to get the VA to bring together a group of people who can truly devote the time and effort needed to study the needs of women veterans and examine the care that is available to our women veterans and the challenges that we face so that they can report their findings to Congress and to the VA so that we as a body can evaluate and adjust the system so that all of our veterans get the care that they have earned.

I am very grateful, and I think all Americans are, to those who serve our Nation, and we have a responsibility to make sure that they receive the best possible care. The burdens of this war on terrorism has fallen on the shoulders of a relatively small number of Americans who have volunteered to take great risks on our behalf. We owe them, our veterans past, present and future, a debt of gratitude for their selflessness and for their service. We need to make sure that our veterans get the benefits they were promised, the health care they deserve, and the recognition that our Nation owes them.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. WILSON of New Mexico. I thank my colleague for his support of this effort. I look forward to working with him to make sure that the VA undertakes this effort and takes it seriously, and we get some good, solid recommendations that all of us can work on.

Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time.

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