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Senator Murray joined local women veterans from Eastern and Central Washington to discuss specific issues facing women veterans in Washington state, and highlighted her efforts in Congress to support women veterans 

Senator Murray: “If we’re going to get our women veterans the help they need and deserve, then we have to make sure the VA offers the specific services and support women veterans need—and welcomes them so they know the VA is for women too.” 

***WATCH VIDEO OF THE EVENT HERE***  

(Spokane, WA) – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a virtual roundtable with women veterans from Eastern and Central Washington to discuss what Senator Murray is working on to help women veterans and to continue hearing about what more can be done at the federal level for women veterans. Senator Murray was joined by local veterans, Erin Mulka, Penny Martinez, Tzena Scarborough, and Julie Liss, who also serves as Women Veterans Program Manager at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC.

Senator Murray has long been an outspoken advocate for women veterans in Congress, working hard to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs address the needs of women—the fastest growing demographic of veteran and military populations. Senator Murray has fought to improve health care services for women veterans, ensure comprehensive reproductive health benefits, expand child care options, and much more.

“For too many veterans in Washington State they continue to face major challenges when they come home, whether that’s finding a good-paying job or getting through red tape to access the benefits they’ve earned—and this is especially true for women who are the fastest-growing group of veterans,” said Senator Murray. “I will always stay focused on these issues until they are fixed. That’s why I’m fighting to ensure VA expands fertility treatment, counseling, and adoption services for veterans and their families, that VA continues investing in its child care pilot program, that VA prioritizes the long-term care needs of women veterans, and that our government treats military and veteran sexual assault like the crisis it is.”

During the call, Senator Murray highlighted several bills that she is working to pass this year, including her Veteran Families Health Services Act—comprehensive legislation that would, among other things, ensure that servicemembers’ and veterans’ fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), and counseling are included as part of the health benefits they’ve earned. Senator Murray also pointed to her Planning for Aging Veterans Act, to improve state veterans homes and ensure all veterans, especially women, have access to long-term care that works for them, and provisions she is fighting for in year-end spending bills for IVF services and adoption assistance, housing assistance, VA’s Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program, and more.

“If we’re going to get our women veterans the help they need and deserve, then we have to make sure the VA offers the specific services and support women veterans need—and welcomes them so they know the VA is for women too,” continued Senator Murray.

“A little over 5 years ago I moved to very rural Southeast Washington, in Kennewick, and I do a lot of work across Benton and Franklin Counties,” said Erin Mulka, a local Tri-Cities area veteran. “One thing I hear from women across this region is there's concerns about access to and level of care when we're going to either seek medical care because we choose to use the VA as our primary health care provider or we're working out issues with our claims and trying to get things reviewed and resolved. I also think it’s critical to emphasize, especially for working women veterans, that it’s challenging to access services due to conflicts with the traditional business day. Working women veterans deserve the same professional courtesy as the providers. ”

“The needs of all veterans, but especially female veterans, vary by generation. A younger veteran exposed to chemicals or burn pits may need IVF to have children, while older veterans will have different gynecological needs due to the same exposure. Male veterans can get certain treatments, that female veterans need the equivalent of,” said Penny Martinez, a local Whitman County area veteran, Washington State University Veteran Coordinator, and American Legion volunteer service officer. “The care is not just about the services the veterans have earned; it is about the impact on the family members who stand beside the veterans as well.” 

“We need to change the face of what a veteran looks like,” said Tzena Scarborough, a local Spokane area Army veteran and member of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, Women Veterans Advisory Committee. “When you're in the military as a woman, you're very visible. When you get out of the military, you're very invisible. We must stand up and say that we served too! We need to educate our country and its citizens that women are veterans just like the men—and they have always volunteered to serve their country.”

“We were early adopters of legislation Senator Murray supported to expand in vitro fertilization benefits. We have been successful in getting many of those resources available to couples who need them through regional partnerships,” said Julie Liss, a local Spokane area veteran and Women Veterans Program Manager at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. “But I’d really like see to an expansion of reproductive services to mirror the traditional infertility benefits. I’d like to see those benefits cover surrogacy for women veterans who otherwise need it, I’d like to see those benefits expanded to same-sex couples, and I’d like to see an expansion of the number of cycles of IVF available to women. In my role as Women Veterans Program Manager, I have enjoyed the blessing of seeing a tremendous expansion of health care services and resources—events like today remind me how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.”

A longtime champion for women veterans in the Senate, Senator Murray has recently worked to permanently authorize the VA child care pilot program to increase access to free, quality child care for veterans during their appointments, make much-needed improvements to the women veterans call center, and fix a loophole that left veterans footing the bill for medically-necessary emergency newborn transportation that VA should be covering.

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