WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties) issued the following statement after Congress passed four amendments in addition to her eleven military sexual assault amendments as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016. They include amendments to help our transgender veterans, to improve access to contraception for servicewomen, and to increase military whistleblower protections.
“I am proud of these substantive amendments to the NDAA, showing broad bipartisan support for fundamental American ideals,” said Speier. “The rights and dignity of our servicemembers, no matter their gender identity or expression; equal access to medical coverage, no matter their job; and protecting whistleblowers that reveal waste, fraud, and abuse, no matter the agency.”
Allowing Name Changes on Discharge Documents for Transgender Veterans
Currently, veterans who change gender identity after leaving the service cannot receive amended discharge documents, or what the DoD calls the DD214. Every time they use this paperwork, the veteran is forced to disclose their transgender status to prove their service to our nation. This amendment would allow a trans veteran to update their discharge papers to reflect their new name following a change in gender identity or expression.
“Our transgender veterans deserve to have accurate military documents that don’t force them to come out with every job, college, and mortgage application. A name change is so simple, and it’s the least we can do for their service to our nation. I am confident that we can provide the estimated 134,000 American trans veterans with the respect they deserve.”
Providing Adequate Quantities of Contraception for Servicewomen
When servicewomen are deployed for long periods of time, they can run out of medically necessary contraception. This amendment would ensure that a servicewoman who uses contraception on a long-term basis is dispensed a large enough amount to cover the full time of their deployment.
“Servicewomen should not have to fill their prescriptions by helicopter. They experience enough physical danger without having reliable access to prescription medication added to the list. In fact, recent studies have shown that women in the military have a 50 percent higher rate of unplanned pregnancy than the general population. Fortunately, this problem has a simple solution – my amendment would simply let servicewomen bring sufficient medication with them when they deploy.”
Ensuring Servicewomen Have Access to their Prescribed Contraception
When a servicewoman is prescribed contraception, they should have access to the specific contraception prescribed by their doctor for their body. Currently, military treatment facilities (MTFs) may have a limited stock or variety of contraceptive methods available, forcing servicewomen to change medication against their doctor’s advice. This amendment would require MTFs to have a sufficient stock of a broad array of FDA approved contraception methods available for pickup.
“Not all contraceptive methods are equal, and some women can only tolerate certain types. Servicewomen deserve access to the same array of contraceptive methods available to the civilians they fight to protect. This amendment would ensure that bases stock a broad range of contraceptive options, so a trip to the pharmacy isn’t a game of chance.”
Protecting Military Whistleblowers from Retaliation
Currently, military whistleblowers are disadvantaged when working to prove retaliation. In the civilian world, an agency would have to show by “clear and convincing evidence” that its actions against a whistleblower were not retaliatory, instead of requiring the whistleblower to prove the agency’s intentions by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This amendment would align the burden of proof for military whistleblowers to the civilian standard.
“The majority of military whistleblowers who communicate wrongdoing to Congress or an Inspector General experience retaliation. But when they try to prove it, the deck is stacked against them in a way that isn’t true for civilians. This amendment would help military whistleblowers like the 62 percent of military sexual assault victims who experience retaliation get a fair hearing, without an artificially high burden of proof. Whistleblowers are the key to uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse. We must provide them with adequate protections so Congress and the Inspectors General can get the information we need to conduct genuine oversight.”