H.R. 4635 directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase the number of female peer counselors so that female veterans who are separating or newly separated from military service can receive support from other female veterans. In addition, the bill emphasizes facilitating peer-to-peer counseling for women veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder or suffer from another mental health condition, or are homeless or at the risk of being homeless.
Women represent 10% of our nation’s veteran population and by 2030, this population is expected to grow to 15%. Over the past 10 years, the use of VA benefits among women veterans has increased by more than 45%. According to the VA’s 2016 suicide data report, the “risk of suicide was 2.4 times higher among female veterans when compared with civilian adult females.”
According to the bill sponsor, “[t]he VA’s existing peer-to-peer counseling program has seen great success. This bill would build upon its proven record by creating a more representative program of the veteran population and focus on the mental health needs of female veterans.”