Veterans just got one step closer to free child care for VA medical visits

Matt Saintsing
February 08, 2019 - 4:39 pm

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson

The House on Friday passed a bill that would expand free childcare for veterans for mental health and other medical appointments at VA health care facilities nationwide. 

The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, which passed with broad bipartisan support, would make permanent an existing program to provide on-site childcare, give veterans a stipend to cover the cost of child care at select facilities or pay them directly. 

RELATED: Will this be the year VA’s free child care program is made permanent?

“The lack of child care shouldn’t prevent veterans from receiving VA healthcare services,” said Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill. 

“Ensuring veterans have access to childcare is especially important for our growing population of women veterans, who are more likely to be taking care of young children.” 

The VA began offering child care at a single VA facility in Buffalo, N.Y., but quickly expanded to three more other sites—one in Northport, N.Y, American Lake, Wash., and eventually Dallas, Texas. 
The program was intended to end in September of 2013, but Congress has reauthorized the program every year since. 

“Providing cost-free, safe, and convenient child care so that veterans can get the care they need is the least we can do to make their lives easier so they, in turn, can be loving parents and caregivers to the children who depend on them,” added Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. 

RELATED: VA reimburses adoption expenses for qualifying veterans

The Senate needs to vote on the bill before being sent to the White House for the president’s signature, but some Republicans are expressing concern over how to pay for the bill. 

“Last Congress a similar bill passed unanimously with an offset, now not only does the legislation not include any effort at fiscal responsibility, but Democrats won’t even debate,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), the committee’s ranking member, who stressed he still supports the bill despite his reservations.

"While Democrats have changed the rules regarding how legislation must be paid for, it still comes down to how we spend taxpayer dollars, this is not something I take lightly.” 

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