One of every eight women will have invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. Companion legislation, H.R. 4794 and S. 2533, the Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act, would improve breast health programs and services available to veterans enrolled for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. Because women veterans are a minority population within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), they must often rely on community partners for gender-specific health services including their breast health. In 2020, one third of all gender-specific cancer treatment and screening for women veterans using VHA took place in the community, and VA does not expect that proportion of care to change in the near future.
Breast health is essential to a woman’s overall health, yet there are often barriers to accessing these vital services. According to the VA’s most recent budget summary fewer than half of VA’s women patients received gender-specific care in fiscal year 2020—these numbers are particularly low (13%) for senior women veterans who are at the highest risk of certain gender-specific cancers, including breast cancer. In addition, only about 79% of VA’s medical centers had a full or part-time breast health coordinator, which can hamper access to community mammography services. Anecdotal research also indicates that women receiving care in the community often report dissatisfaction with communication about eligibility for services, scheduling of timely appointments and getting results of completed diagnostic work. These findings suggest the need for a more strenuous breast health effort in VA.
The MAMMO Act would improve mammography services for veterans by requiring the VA to develop a strategic plan for breast imaging services and establishing a tele-mammography pilot program in states without VA mammography services and in locations where the provision of such services is not feasible. The bill would also require VHA to upgrade all mammography equipment to three-dimensional imaging and to study the availability of genetic testing for the breast cancer gene for veterans. These requirements, in addition to studies and increased partnerships with designated providers within the National Cancer Institute network and the Department of Defense should help improve access to high-quality breast cancer care for all women veterans.
DAV supports H.R. 4794 and S. 2533 in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 015, which calls for enhanced medical services, including gender-specific care, and benefits for women veterans.
Please urge your elected officials to support this important legislation.
Thank you for your support of our nation’s women veterans.