Washington, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) that will help address the maternal mortality crisis among women veterans passed both the Senate and House by overwhelming margins and is now headed to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“Providing support to our veterans and those who serve today is among our greatest obligations. The U.S. has an unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, and the impact of this crisis on women veterans is not well understood,” said Senator Collins. “Our legislation will help examine ways to improve care coordination, identify gaps in coverage, and eliminate disparities. I look forward to this critical bill being signed into law to help ensure that the brave women who have served in our military receive the maternal care they have earned.”
“It’s a tragedy every time a mother dies from a preventable cause related to pregnancy or childbirth, and it’s shameful that far too often these moms are women of color whose pain or symptoms have been overlooked or ignored,” said Senator Duckworth. “There has never been a comprehensive evaluation of how our nation’s growing maternal mortality crisis is impacting our women Veterans, even though they may be at higher risk due to their service. I’m so proud that this bipartisan bill I introduced with Senator Collins and Representative Underwood—which would commission the first-ever comprehensive study on this issue in relation to the Veteran community while also making sure mothers who have served our nation can access the maternal care they need and have earned—passed the House, and I look forward to President Biden signing it into law.”
There are more than half a million women veterans in our nation who are under the age of 40. The Protecting Moms Who Served Act will commission the first-ever comprehensive study on the scope of America’s maternal health crisis among women veterans—with a focus on racial and ethnic disparities on maternal health outcomes—while also supporting maternal care coordination programs at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.
Specifically, the Protecting Moms Who Served Act will:
· Invest $15 million in maternity care coordination programs at VA facilities that will help:
o Ensure effective coordination between VA facilities and non-VA facilities in the delivery of maternity care and other healthcare services;
o Facilitate access and referrals to resources in the community to address social determinants of health;
o Identify mental and behavioral health risk factors in the prenatal and postpartum periods, and ensure that pregnant and postpartum veterans get the help and treatment they need; and
o Offer childbirth preparation classes, parenting classes, nutrition counselling, breastfeeding support, lactation classes and breast pumps.
· Commission a comprehensive GAO study, submitted to Congress, on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity among veterans, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes that will:
o Make recommendations for the improvement of maternal health data collection processes;
o Include steps on how to reduce adverse maternal health outcomes among veterans, including those with coverage through the VA, their employers or other private insurance plans, Tricare or Medicaid, as well as uninsured veterans.
The Protecting Moms Who Served Act has been endorsed by more than 150 organizations, including: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses; NAACP; Society for Women’s Health Research; Women Veterans Interactive; and Wounded Warrior Project.