Velázquez Seeks to Curb Domestic Violence Among Veterans
Leads 81 Members of Congress in Introducing Legislation to Expand VA Resources
Washington, DC –As the nation recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) today unveiled legislation to target assistance to domestic violence survivors in the veteran’s and military community. The “Violence Against Women Veterans Act,” H.R. 6869, would improve services for women veterans experiencing domestic abuse.
“Sadly, domestic abuse and violence appear to be widespread among the veterans and servicemember communities,” said Velázquez. “No woman should be denied help or resources when they most need it and we must ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs is proactively addressing this problem.”
In 1988, the VA created the Women Veterans Health Program to streamline services for female veterans. Today, as more service roles are being made available to women in uniform, women make up the fastest growing group of veterans. Unfortunately, this advancement has also lead to an increase in sexual assault and harassment for female servicemembers both during their time in the armed services and after. It is estimated that one third of female veterans experience domestic violence compared with less than a quarter of civilian women. Congress recently recognized the scope of this problem by designating domestic violence a separate crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Velázquez’s bill, H.R. 6869, would take important strides towards increasing resources for veterans affected by domestic violence. First, it would establish local domestic and sexual violence outreach coordinators under the VA, who would be tasked with helping veterans utilize existing service providers. Second, it would codify the current VA Task Force on Domestic Violence and direct it to establish a comprehensive national program to prevent and treat intimate partner violence. Finally, Velázquez’s bill would fill an existing lack of data by directing the VA to complete a national study on the prevalence and causes of domestic violence among veterans.
“Confronting domestic violence is extremely difficult, but no survivor should ever be made to feel alone in the process of standing up to her or his abuser,” said Velázquez. “Drawing attention to the need for comprehensive reforms in the way our institutions handle domestic violence ought to be a priority not just this month, but every month.”