Bill That Would Provide Free Child Care to Veterans During VA Health Appointments Heads to Senate
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A bill passed Friday by the House would make permanent an ongoing pilot program that provides no-cost child care for veterans so they can attend medical appointments at VA facilities.
The existing program, which was created by Congress in 2011, will expire Oct. 1 without new funding. The Veterans' Access to Child Care Act, H.R. 840, would expand the benefit to include all veterans who travel to a VA facility and receive care. The bill, which passed the House 400 to 9, includes amendments that would expand the program further, allowing stipends for child care while the parent has an appointment at any VA facility or veterans center for a variety of VA-covered services, including physical therapy and mental health counseling. The bill next moves to the Senate.
The no-cost child care assistance can take a number of forms:
- Stipends for services through a licensed child care center.
- Direct provision of child care at an on-site VA facility.
- Payment made directly to a private child care agency.
- Collaboration with a facility of another federal department.
- “Such other form of assistance as the [VA] Secretary considers appropriate,” per the legislation.
Cmdr. René Campos, USN (Ret), MOAA's senior director of government relations for veterans-wounded warrior care, said the pilot program has been hugely successful, and it's time to expand it across the country.
“Access to child care should no longer be a nice service VA should consider providing to veterans, but rather a necessity,” Campos said. “Minimizing barriers like child care in order to access VA health care is not only the right thing to do but goes a long way in helping transform VA to meet the needs of veterans in the 21st century.”
More than 10,000 children of veterans have used the pilot program, according to a news release from Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), newly elected chairwoman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's health panel, who introduced the legislation.
Women veterans used the service at a rate four times their population among the veteran community. Without the program, many women said they would have brought their children to their appointment or had been forced to cancel their appointment, according to the VA.
The program was reauthorized by Congress four times.
“Keeping our promise to our nation's veterans means not only providing the care our veterans need, but breaking down barriers to accessing that care,” Brownley said. “The lack of child care shouldn't prevent veterans from receiving VA health care services. Ensuring veterans have access to child care is especially important for our growing population of women veterans, who are more likely to be taking care of young children. I am extremely pleased that the House passed this important legislation today.”