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Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty

Representing the 5th District of Connecticut


Veterans Journal: VA unveils budget plans for 2018

May 21, 2017
In The News

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin recently outlined to Congress his plans to use the $78.9-billion budget request for 2018 to improve services for veterans, according to the Armed Forces News service.

While recognizing that the VA has made significant advances in delivering benefits to veterans, Shulkin said that more must be done.

“Incremental change is not sufficient to achieve the additional improvements VA and veterans need and demand,” Shulkin told members of the House Appropriations’ military construction, veterans’ affairs and related agencies subcommittee during a May 3 hearing in Washington.

The secretary outlined his priorities, which include offering veterans more choices for care and taking steps to help veterans become better informed about available benefits. He cited the Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek health care from facilities closer to their homes or more amenable to granting quick appointments. President Donald Trump recently signed a bill extending the program for another year; it was originally set to expire in August.

Shulkin also mentioned other benefits available to veterans, including the new Access and Quality Tool, which tells the wait times and quality of care they should expect at VA facilities. This will help veterans compare VA medical centers, as well as civilian facilities.

For a complete recap of what Shulkin said, go to

Women veterans gaining in numbers, respect

To commemorate Mother’s Day, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading U.S. post-9/11 veteran organization, honored mothers and all women who have served their country in military service by telling their stories with its “She Who Borne the Battle” campaign to increase recognition and improve service for all women veterans.

“There are mothers overseas fighting ISIS right now. We often forget that, which is why IAVA’s number-one priority this year is to increase recognition for women who serve. The women who are risking their lives and sacrificing time with their families to defend our nation deserve proper recognition and support for their service when they come home,” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA founder and CEO.

“More than 345,000 women have deployed since 9/11. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population and that trend will continue as the number of male veterans simultaneously declines over the coming decades. However, many female veterans are left without the proper care to support their needs when they return from their service. ‘She Who Borne the Battle’ will change this by providing a foundation of public awareness, local support and policy changes solely targeted at supporting and empowering female veterans.” Learn more at

Rieckhoff continued, “The contributions of women have been overlooked for too long, which is why we launched our historic ‘She Who Borne the Battle’ campaign. It’s also why we joined leaders from both parties in Congress to introduce the Deborah Sampson Act that includes improving VA newborn care for women vets.”

Hawaii’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty announced on May 17 the introduction of the Deborah Sampson Act in the U.S. House in order to address gender disparities at the VA.

The act is bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to improve recognition and services for women veterans. Among other things, the bill specifically aims to improve services at the VA for mothers by improving the quality of care for their infants and authorizing medically necessary transportation of newborns.

A companion bill, S.681, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. John Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Congresswoman Gabbard is one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress and is a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Rep. Gabbard said, “When they [women] come home, they face a country and a VA that doesn’t fully understand their service and their needs. Our country’s veteran population has changed dramatically over the years, yet the VA has not kept up with those changes. Women veterans have lower rates of access to the VA than men, yet face higher rates of PTSD, military sexual assault, exposure to trauma, unemployment and homelessness.

“With women as the fastest growing population in both our military and veteran communities, we must address this void in care. This legislation will help to improve the VA’s delivery of benefits and services to ... more than 2 million female veterans nationwide through a comprehensive network of support and services.”