A Texas congresswoman wants to make cancer care easier for the growing number of female veterans

A female U.S. Army soldier of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division (Raider Brigade) stands in front of tanks during a visit by the German president to U.S. forces in Grafenwoehr. The number of female veterans is increasing, and U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia wants to ensure they have cancer care. (Daniel Karmann/Dpa Via Reuters, Daniel Karmann/Dpa Via Reuters)

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U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia plans to introduce a bill this week that aims to significantly change the way veteran women’s cancer care is handled by Veterans Affairs.

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If the Houston Democrat’s legislation becomes law, VA health centers will need to increase their gynecological services to meet the needs of the growing female veteran population, which tripled between 2000 and 2015. These changes would start as a pilot program.

There are more than 190,000 female veterans in Texas — more than any other state, making the state apt for such a pilot.

The average female veteran in the U.S. is 51, the age at which women are more likely to receive diagnoses of gynecological cancer.

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"This bill is a strong step forward to providing the health care our nation’s women veterans deserve," Garcia said in a statement. "These heroes served us bravely, now we must do everything in our power to serve them with the dignity and respect they deserve."

Congress has passed similar legislation that aims to streamline care through the VA. Most recently, federal lawmakers approved the PACT Act, which extends benefits and care to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

The Texas Veterans Commission would help veterans within the state further navigate their benefits through the VA. If the bill is adopted, the veterans commission’s Women’s Program and Health Advisory Program would likely collaborate to provide assistance to qualifying veterans, a state spokesperson said.

To qualify under the pilot care program, female veterans must have been diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, such as cervical, uterine, ovarian, vaginal or vulvar. They must also be eligible for the Veterans Community Care Program or care through a non-VA facility.

The bill proposes to roll out the program to at least five VA medical centers. The locations have not yet been announced.

Garcia serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

Disclosure: Texas Veterans Commission has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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