OSWEGO — Local veterans and advocates are lauding a federal bill introduced this week seeking to better facilitate access to medical services for women veterans amidst the increasing need to raise awareness of services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
During a Tuesday House Committee on Veterans Affairs meeting, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, introduced HR. 2972, that would, in part, expand accessibility of health services and help inform female veterans about the benefits to which they are entitled.
The bill, co-sponsored by Indiana Republican Jackie Walorski, would codify women’s access to the Veterans Affairs (VA) Women Veterans Call Center, a branch of the VA that via text message advises former service members on their veteran status and provides resources for those seeking medical services and education opportunities.
“Women veterans are the fastest growing demographic in the veteran community,” Brindisi said on the House floor Tuesday. “Women comprise nearly 10 percent of the veteran population, and that figure is expected to rise to 18 percent over the next 20 years. This bill will build on efforts by VA and (the VA health subcommittee) to ensure all women veterans are aware of the hard-earned resources and benefits available to them and where to turn if they are struggling.”
Brindisi added that 75 percent of women veterans do not use VA healthcare and face inequalities derived from a system he said “hasn’t adjusted quickly enough to meet their specific needs.”
HR. 2972 also calls for VA officials to publish a website to serve as a hub of resources where women veterans can access information regarding benefits they could seek.
The website, the bill states, would be updated every 90 days and would have the most up-to-date information on outpatient clinic services available to veterans, as well as contact information for the coordinator of women’s health at every medical facility that serves former service members.
Oswego County Veterans Service Agency Director Jamie Hamlin praised the bill, calling it a “step forward” for women veterans.
“They at times feel isolated and don’t necessarily feel as though there are ample resources available to them,” Hamlin said. “By creating a service where women veterans can text the call center, accessibility to resources can be at the tips of their fingers.”
Hamlin also said while federal officials are making strides in highlighting available medical resources, local resources are still untapped.
“The women’s clinic at the Syracuse VA medical center is underutilized,” she said. “It’s designed to serve female veterans as a source of primary care and specialty clinic referrals.”
The Oswego VA outpatient clinic, located at 437 state Route 104 East, offers laboratory services, psychotherapy, smoking cessation programs and personal care services, according to the organization’s website.
“As a county, I believe that there is a positive association with the available VA healthcare system resources currently available,” Hamlin said. “The VA as a whole is striving to modernize its systems and improve its ongoing support for our nation’s veterans through ever-changing healthcare program initiatives and services.”
Per the VA, veterans experiencing an emotional crisis should contact the Veterans Crisis Line or call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
Veterans in need of medical advice after normal clinic hours can call TelCare at 1-888-838-7890.