Improving Birth Control Access For Those Who Serve
On Veterans Day we honor all those who have served our country in the Armed Forces. Our nation honors its veterans with this federal holiday each year, but more importantly, Veterans Day offers us a chance to ask ourselves how can we truly commit to honoring our veterans every day of the year? The Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) provides health care to veterans once they retire from the military service and for the rest of their lives. It’s an important part of how our nation honors their sacrifice.
There are more than 2 million women veterans living in the US today, and they are the fastest growing group in the veteran population. In 2000, women were only 4% of the veteran population. By 2040, women will be 18% of the veteran population.
Under the Affordable Care Act, civilian women have coverage of contraception without co-pays. Unfortunately, women veterans receiving their health care from the VHA still pay co-pays for some contraceptives, including the pill. Research shows that even minimal costs associated with contraception lead some to forgo it completely, choose less effective methods, or use it inconsistently.
The fact that our veterans do not have access to the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods without co-pays—something I enjoy as a civilian, is frankly wrong. It’s also the result of a system that was not originally designed to serve women. But women are serving, in greater numbers than ever before and its past time to fix this.
In a 245-181 bipartisan vote this past June, the US House of Representatives passed the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act (HR 239). The bill would ensure that veterans have access to contraception without a co-pay, a benefit presently available to civilians. The Senate should pass this bill immediately and send it to President Biden’s desk for signature.
Think we should go even further? I do!
Congress should also pass the Access to Contraception Expansion for Veterans (ACE Veterans) Act (HR 3643/S 1915) that would offer veterans a full year’s worth of contraception at one time. Data shows that 43% of veterans who receive a three-month supply of oral contraceptives experience a gap of at least seven days or more between contraceptive refills over the course of a year.
So, this Veterans Day, as you reflect on the service of your family members and friends and the debt we owe them, remember that taking care of their health includes contraceptive care. Urge your Senators to pass the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act today. All people, including veterans, deserve access to contraception they need without barriers. Ensuring such access is our duty as a grateful nation.