Sherrill Strengthens VA Child Care Bill
Washington, DC -- This morning Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) successfully offered three amendments to the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act of 2019. The bill makes permanent a 2010 pilot program to provide child care at VA medical centers and clinics around the country.
The Congresswoman’s amendments specifically include military sexual trauma (MST) counseling and care services in the definition of services eligible for childcare at a VA center or clinic, and bar employment in a VA child care center of individuals convicted of a sex crime, an offense involving a child victim, a violent crime, a drug felony, or other offense the Secretary of Veterans Affairs deems appropriate. It also ensures that the bill will not weaken state or local laws that enforce rigorous hiring guidelines. Congresswoman Sherrill introduced an amendment on behalf of Colin Allred of Texas that requires the VA Secretary to provide public notification on VA.gov about the program, and to perform outreach to inform eligible veterans.
The amendments on MST and public notice passed the House by voice vote. The amendment on barring employment of individuals convicted of a sex crime passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 401 to 19.
Excerpts from Congresswoman Sherrill’s floor speech on barring employment of individuals convicted of a sex crime, offense involving a child victim, a violent crime, a drug felon, or other offense deemed appropriate by the VA Secretary:
“As a working mom, I know all too well how important it is to know that your children have a safe and healthy environment while away from home. Mr. Chair, ensuring our veterans have access to childcare at VA facilities is the least we can do for the men and women who have stood up to serve our country.”
“This bill means less stress for our veterans who would need to otherwise arrange for childcare to make an appointment. [Veterans In my community] have also told me that this bill will help veterans make and attend appointments because they wouldn’t have to worry about arranging childcare. This acknowledges both the needs of our veterans and creates a support network for them.”
Excerpts of Congresswoman Sherrill’s floor speech on including military sexual trauma is included in the definition of services:
“Over the summer, I spoke to veterans in my district in New Jersey about the inadequacies they see in VA services for this generation of returning service members. I heard from female service members about the need for better counseling services for victims of military sexual trauma, or MST.”
“These are the invisible wounds of war – invisible trauma that we cannot see as our service members return home. I’m particularly concerned that victims of sexual trauma, which is prevalent in military and civilian populations, are not getting the services they need.
“This amendment will ensure survivors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve when trying to access care at the VA, without worrying about the cost or availability of childcare.”
Excerpts of Congresswoman Sherrill’s floor speech on providing public notification about the cost-free child care services provided in the bill:
“Each of us have heard from the women and men who have served and sacrificed in uniform about the challenges that come from seeking access to the benefits veterans have earned. Last year, at a veterans’ round table in Woodland Park, I heard from women veterans that it is not enough for Congress to enact a new provision and think our job is done.
“Simply put, this important childcare program will not work as intended, or have the reach it could, without informing our servicemen and women that it exists in the first place.
The pilot program to provide child care at VA medical centers and clinics has received bipartisan support in multiple congressional reauthorizations, and is incredibly popular with the veteran community. The bill will expand the program beyond the VA centers in the pilot program, and designate that all caretakers, including parents and grandparents, can access this service when seeking health services at a VA center.
Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and previously served as a U.S. Navy helicopter pilot. Congresswoman Sherrill is committed to improving services for the more than 25,000 veterans in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District.