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VET Legislation Progress
Veterans, including those who may be at increased risk for breast cancer because of their service
near burn pits, could have better access to breast cancer screenings under a pair of bills that cleared
Congress this week. The House on 18 MAY voted 418-0 to approve the Dr. Kate Hendricks
Thomas Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environments, or SERVICE, Act
(S.2102), which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct mammograms for
all women who served near burn pits or other toxic exposures, regardless of symptoms, age or
family history.
The chamber also voted 419-0 to pass the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical
Options, or MAMMO, for Veterans Act (S.25330, which would require the VA to craft a strategic
plan to improve breast imaging services within a year, create a three-year pilot program of
telemammography for veterans in areas where the VA does not offer in-house mammograms, and
expand veterans' access to clinical trials through partnerships with the National Cancer Institute.
Both bills passed the Senate unanimously in March, meaning they now only await President Joe
Biden's signature before becoming law.
The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act is named after a Marine Corps veteran who
died in April after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 38. Thomas served near a
burn pit in Iraq and was unaware she faced an elevated risk of breast cancer, but was advised to
get a mammogram in 2018 during a routine medical exam. In written testimony last year, Thomas
told senators that she "needed that mammogram sooner." "Early detection and treatment are key
in the fight against breast cancer," Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., the lead sponsor of the bill, said
in a statement when the bill passed the Senate. "Given the additional risk factors associated with
toxic exposure, which we know has occurred in recent combat settings, the VA must update its
policies so vulnerable veterans can receive mammograms."
Passage of the bill came the same day senators announced a bipartisan deal to greatly expand
health care and benefits for veterans suffering from illnesses related to toxic exposure. While the
full text of the agreement has not yet been released, the House-passed bill upon which the deal is
based did not include breast cancer as one of the ailments for which benefits would automatically
be extended. The two mammogram bills were among a slate of 19 veterans-related bills, including
several others that also focus on issues primarily affecting female veterans, the House passed this
week, its last before it goes on a two-week Memorial Day recess. Bills approved 18 MAY
included four meant to improve support for survivors of military sexual trauma.
 One bill, approved 417-0, seeks to improve coordination between the Veterans Benefits
Administration and Veterans Health Administration when helping veterans file claims
related to sexual trauma.
 Another, passed 405-12, would add annual training on sexual trauma for members of the
Board of Veterans' Appeals, which hears veterans' benefits claims after they've been
denied. The opposition came entirely from Republicans.
 The House also advanced a bill in a 414-2 vote to require the VA to have the National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine conduct a comprehensive review of
VA medical examinations for people who submit claims for mental and physical
conditions related to sexual trauma. The "no" votes came from Reps. Sean Casten, DIll.,
and Diana Harshbarger, R-Tenn.
 And the chamber passed a bill in a 420-0 vote to create a peer support program at the
Veterans Benefits Administration for sexual trauma survivors.
The House also voted 420-0 on H.R.5738 to require the VA to provide lactation rooms for
veteran moms in all of its medical centers. An estimated 90 VA facilities across the country
already have nursing rooms, but only VA employees can access them. "The bills passed today
address the unique needs of women veterans, including ensuring safe and discreet lactation spaces
for veteran mothers who seek care at VA facilities and on H.R.6901 providing dignity to survivors
of MST as they go through the claims process," House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman
Mark (D-CA) said in a statement.
The MST bills and the lactation room bill still need to be voted on by the Senate before they
could be signed into law by Biden. [Source: | Rebecca Kheel | 19 May 2022 ++]

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