Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today voted to pass new legislation that will improve VA services, increase support for families and caregivers, and eliminate barriers to care for female veterans. The House passed The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act on a vote of 419-0.
"One of my long standing goals in Congress has been to expand the availability of mental health services though the VA and this package will help address that need, including more research into suicide prevention," said Berkley. "This legislation also provides critical new support for family members and other caregivers who are there to help injured veterans as they recover and return to civilian life."
The bill provides support to family members and others who care for disabled, ill, or injured veterans. Available services will include education on how to be a better caregiver, counseling and mental health services, and respite care for family and other caregivers of all veterans. The package also provides health care and a stipend for caregivers living with severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the VA will be provided with resources to learn more about the tragically high suicide rate among veterans.
"Through this legislation we are addressing the changing medical needs of America's veterans and eliminating barriers to ensure full access to quality health care for all those who proudly served in America's armed forces -- regardless of gender."
The legislation, which is supported by a broad coalition of veterans groups, enhances health services for the 1.8 million women veterans, including care for newborns for the first time in history. Access to care for veterans in rural areas will be enhanced by the bill and the VA will be prohibited from charging copayments to veterans who are catastrophically disabled.