Tester’s Historic Deborah Sampson Act Signed Into Law

(U.S. Senate) – Women veterans will have greater access to critical care and services following the signing of U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s historic Deborah Sampson Act into law today by the President. Tester’s bipartisan bill unanimously passed the Senate last month as part of an end-of-year package to better address the needs of veterans nationwide.

“This is a historic moment for the nearly two million women veterans across the country who will now have access to quality health care and benefits under the Deborah Sampson Act,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This new law will ensure that VA does its part in supporting the selfless women who have borne the battle by providing services tailored to meet their needs now and into the future. I thank Senator Boozman, Congresswoman Brownley, IAVA, and DAV for partnering with me on this bipartisan effort to help change the culture at VA to better support women veterans’ service and sacrifice.”

“The VA is long overdue for this update to better serve the needs of women veterans. I’m proud of the bipartisan reform we’ve achieved that will deliver improved access to care and services to support women who serve our nation in uniform. I remain committed to ensuring the improvements we approved in the Deborah Sampson Act are successfully implemented,” said Boozman, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

"IAVA is proud to join Senator Tester today to celebrate this tremendous and hard-fought milestone," said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO Jeremy Butler. "For nearly four years, IAVA has been working hard to see this legislation finally cross the finish line, and we can now send a powerful message to women veterans that our nation respects their service and will not tolerate substandard care for them at the VA." 

“DAV is pleased to see the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 signed into law,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Commander Stephen “Butch” Whitehead. “We greatly appreciate that the women veterans provisions championed by Senator Tester in the Deborah Sampson Act were included in this comprehensive legislation to address issues like health care access, harassment and sexual assault, MST and gender-specific prosthetics, among others. This bill will enhance and improve VA programs and health services for women veterans and ensure they receive the care and support they need and have earned. We thank Senator Tester for his continued dedication and efforts in support of our nation’s women veterans.”

The Deborah Sampson Act will eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and would help ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) addresses the needs of women veterans who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment, and go without needed health care through the following provisions:

  • Creates a dedicated Office of Women’s Health at VA, expands reintegration and readjustment group counseling retreats for women veterans and their family members, and bolsters call center services for women veterans.
  • Eliminates barriers to care by staffing every VA health facility with a dedicated women’s health primary care provider, training clinicians, and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment of care for women veterans.
  • Bolsters supportive services by providing access to legal services for women veterans, expanding child care for veterans receiving VA health care, and requiring the Government Accountability Office to report on VA’s efforts to support homeless or at-risk women veterans.
  • Improves access to care and benefits for survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) of all genders by expanding MST counseling to former Guard and Reserve members, allowing VA to treat the physical health conditions of MST, and improving the claims process for MST survivors at the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Tester secured 11 additional provisions in the end-of-year veterans’ package, including legislation removing barriers to VA funding for organizations in need of critical upgrades to keep homeless veterans safe from the coronavirus, increasing veterans’ access to timely health care through improved scheduling, streamlining veterans’ access to earned disability benefits online, and establishing an Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs to advise the VA Secretary on matters relating to Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native American veterans.

Full text of the end-of-year veterans’ package is available HERE.