United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) today introduced the Women Veterans Peer Counseling Enhancement Act to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Peer Support Program is equipped with an adequate amount of peer counselors to help address the mental health needs of women veterans. Representatives Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) originally introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives on Dec.13, 2017.
Women veterans rely on the VA Peer Support Program and face significant mental health challenges. A 2016 VA report on veterans’ mental health found that the “risk for suicide was 2.5 times higher among female veterans when compared with U.S. civilian adult women.” The VA has also observed that women veterans “who experienced military sexual trauma, who have mental health conditions, and/or who are at risk of becoming homeless face numerous barriers in seeking and accessing assistance, including through VA.” There’s a demonstrable need for the VA to increase peer counselors with experience in issues affecting women veterans - but only about 16 percent of peer counselors are women.
The Women Veterans Peer Counseling Enhancement Act is endorsed by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and Wounded Warrior Project.
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