Washington, DC – Today, Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) made history with Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), and Elaine Luria (VA-02) by launching the first-ever Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus (SWWV). Representative Houlahan will serve as Chair and Representatives Sherrill, Gabbard, and Luria will serve as Vice Chairs. Together, these four women set a record – this is the largest number of women veterans ever serving in Congress. SWWV will foster collaboration among Members of Congress and address issues facing America’s servicewomen and women veterans. This caucus is bipartisan and open to all Members of Congress. To date, there are 51 members of the caucus.
“Women have played an integral role in our armed forces since the Revolutionary War, and today represent the largest growing population of veterans in the United States,” said Representative Sherrill. “Yet it was clear during my service, and now in conversations with female veterans in my community, that the challenges faced by servicewomen are often left unmet. We are forming this caucus to bring our perspective as female veterans to our colleagues, and to work to ensure Congress does more to support both women currently serving and women veterans.”
“Now is the time to address the issues that plague our servicewomen and women veterans,” said Representative Houlahan. “These brave women warriors keep us safe and protect our democracy. That is why we’ve launched the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus. We four women will lead from our lived experiences serving this country and are flanked by men and women, Republicans and Democrats. We have a mission to serve the women who are and have served this country. Our marching orders are set, and we will not stop until we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do.”
“With increasing numbers of women serving in our U.S. military, our caucus will provide a platform to address issues related to their service as well as ensuring they get the care they need from the VA when they lay down the uniform,” said Representative Gabbard. “I’ve served in the Army National Guard for over 16 years, deployed twice to the Middle East, and still serve as a Major today. I look forward to bringing the perspective gained through this experience to our caucus where we can be a voice for women serving now, and create a better future for those who will join our ranks in the years to come.”
“We come together today to establish this caucus because we don’t want to be the last to fill these shoes,” said Representative Luria. “When I served as a nuclear-trained Surface Warfare Officer, there weren’t many women who served alongside me, but that is changing rapidly. I look forward to seeing the next generation of women veterans in Congress.”
“The forming of the Servicewomen & Women Veterans Congressional Caucus by Representative Chrissy Houlahan, is a much need step forward for all women that have served and continue to serve this country,” said Maj. Gen. USA (R) Jeffery Phillips the Executive Director of the Reserve Officers Association. “This caucus will ensure our nation’s female heroes are getting fair and equal representation throughout their military service and as veterans. ROA fully supports this newly formed caucus and looks forward to working with all the members to achieve their goals.”
To view the press conference, click here.
There are over a dozen caucuses that address issues facing servicemembers and/or veterans, but none that are geared towards addressing issues facing the fastest growing cohort in our nation’s military: women. When the draft ended in 1973, women represented just 2 percent of the enlisted forces and 8 percent of the officer corps. Today, those numbers have grown to 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Currently, there are nearly two million living women veterans in the U.S. In the next 25 years, women veterans are projected to nearly double their population to account for nearly one in five living veterans.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the age-adjusted suicide rate for women veterans is almost two times higher than the rate for civilian women. With this in mind, it is especially alarming that, on average, women veterans do connect not with VA services until nearly three years after separating from the military. Data indicates women veterans are just as likely to experience emotionally traumatic or distressing experiences while serving and one in five servicewomen seen by Veterans Health Administration disclose they have experienced Military Sexual Trauma. However, there are few gender-specific care guidelines and a shortage or women program managers and coordinators at the VA.
Beyond these well-documented issues women experience after separating from the military, issues experienced by women during their service are clearly pervasive, though often not as well documented. Retention of women across all services and duty statuses remain concerning. Some Child-Development Centers have year-long wait lists and do not provide 24-hour care for shift workers. Yet, studies have shown many servicewomen choose to separate from active duty due to lack of available child care. The Department of Defense has not conduced a comprehensive reproductive health survey since 1989 and the Marine Corps continues to gender-segregate boot camp and Officer Candidate School. These concerns only highlight a handful of the issues facing women in military service.
As the number of women who serve our country grows, Congress must do more to support them.
List of Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus Members (51 total – 43 Ds, 8 Rs): Chrissy Houlahan (Chair), Tulsi Gabbard (Vice Chair), Elaine Luria (Vice Chair), Mikie Sherrill (Vice Chair, Gil Cisneros, Chris Pappas, Lori Trahan, Elissa Slotkin, Kendra Horn, Jason Crow, Deb Haaland, Ruben Gallego, Joe Kennedy III, Derek Kilmer, Susan Wild, Abigail Spanberger, Kathleen Rice, Joe Cunningham, Jim Banks, Jimmy Panetta, Brian Fitzpatrick, Nicholas Van Taylor, Abby Finkenauer, Susan Davis, Xochitl Torres Small, Katie Hill, Mary Gay Scanlon, Lois Frankel, Chellie Pingree, Julia Brownley, Jared Golden, Lauren Underwood, Matt Cartwright, Dan Meuser, Susie Lee, Denver Riggleman, Max Rose, Don Bacon, Andy Kim, Joe Courtney, Donald Norcross, Seth Moulton, Michael Waltz, Jackie Walorski, Anthony Brown, Donald Norcross, Cheri Bustos, Jim Cooper, Mike Doyle, Madeleine Dean, and Veronica Escobar
Representative Mikie Sherrill proudly represents New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District. Representative Sherrill is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent almost 10 years on active duty in the United States Navy as a Sea King Helicopter pilot and on her last tour served as a Russian policy officer. After leaving the Navy, she attended law school, and eventually joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. Congresswoman Sherrill serves as Freshman Whip for the New Democrat Coalition, and sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. She is the Chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
Representative Chrissy Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator, and a nonprofit leader. She’s in her first term representing Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Small Business Committee.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawaii’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for 16 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major.
Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. A 20-year Navy veteran, she serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.