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July 13, 2024

Panetta bill to expand VA childcare access passes

Courtesy of Congressman Jimmy Panetta:

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly passed the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, H.R. 840, to break down barriers for veterans to access healthcare. 

This legislation will make permanent the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Child Care Pilot Program and expand it so that veterans across the nation who are parents, grandparents, or other caretakers of young children have a convenient, cost-free child care option when they have VA medical appointments.  

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) was the Democratic lead with Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) on an amendment to expand eligibility for child care assistance to certain instances in which the veteran receiving covered health services is not the primary caretaker.

“Congress must keep our promise to our nation’s veterans by not only providing the care our veterans have earned and need, but breaking down barriers to accessing that care.  Ensuring they have access to child care will empower them to use VA healthcare services, including mental health services,” said Congressman Panetta. “I was proud to work together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this important legislation. I look forward to seeing this legislation passed in the Senate and signed into law.”

In 2011, Congress created a pilot program to provide free child care for qualified veterans using VA healthcare services at a limited number of participating sites around the country.  Since then, the program has been very popular with the veteran community. A VA report issued in 2015 estimated that over 10,000 children had used the program through the end of FY 2014, and many more have used it since that report was issued.  Women veterans used the service at a rate four times their population among the veteran community at large, indicating the program is working for the growing population of women veterans and their families.

According to a VA Satisfaction Survey of veterans who have used the pilot program, a majority responded that, without the available child care, they would have brought their children to their appointment or cancelled their appointment altogether.

Congress has reauthorized this popular and successful program four times, and unless Congress acts again, it will expire on Oct. 1.  The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act would make the pilot program permanent and expand it to include every VA facility in the nation.