By Sheila Berg

Women are the fastest growing demographic in the military today. Most jobs are open to military women, but non-acceptance and barriers persist. Women have served as defenders of this country since the American Revolutionary War.

Deborah Sampson disguised herself and enlisted in the Continental Army as Timothy Thayer in Middleborough, Massachusetts. She was discovered and reenlisted again in 1782 as Robert Shirtliff. She joined the Light Infantry Company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, which was a group of elite troops. They were required to provide rapid flank coverage for advancing troops. She was wounded after serving 17 months and honorably discharged at West Point in 1792.

The Deborah Sampson Act represents her desire to serve under difficult situations. This act provides guidance for the Department of Veterans Affairs to update services for female veterans including the expansion of group counseling for veterans and family members, improving quality child care, increasing the number of days of maternity care VA facilities provide, eliminating barriers of care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment where they care for female veterans. The act would also authorize additional grants for organizations that support low-income female veterans and their families, as well as improve the collection and analysis of data regarding women veterans. As the chairwoman of JWV’s Women in the Military Committee, I support the immediate passage of this legislation.

On November 12, 2019, the Deborah Sampson Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 399 to 11.

Volume 73. Number 4. 2019