WASHINGTON – Today, the House passed S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 and accompanying Conference Report with bipartisan support. Two key priorities of Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH) were included in the final legislation, both of which were directly influenced by his experience in the Ohio Army National Guard and work with fellow veterans.
H.R. 2796, the Afghan Allies Protection Act, would increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) available to foreign allies facing persecution for serving U.S. military forces as interpreters or other support staff. The legislation adds an additional 4,000 SIVs to those available and requires the State Department to report to Congress on the obstacles to protecting Iraqi and Afghan allies, and to make suggestions for improving the program.
The current backlog for the SIV program is nearly 20,000 Afghans, and processing times for existing applications have slowed leading to unacceptable wait times.
“When I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I worked with interpreters every day. They always had our backs and were essential to the success of our missions,” Stivers said. “We cannot turn our backs on them. Our allies must know that they can trust the United States to keep its promises, and I am glad that my colleagues recognize that in passing this bill.”
Additionally, the final version of the NDAA includes an amendment offered by Representative Stivers to improve the health of female servicemembers.
Today, there are over 200,000 women enlisted in the U.S. military and nearly 2 million female veterans. Despite their growing numbers, little is known about the unique health needs that arise from females’ service in the military. The impact of deployment, exposure, and stress may put female servicemembers at greater risk for conditions connected to their gynecological health, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and reduced fertility.
In 1999, Congress authorized the Millennium Cohort Study to evaluate data on the health conditions of all members of the Armed Forces throughout their enlistments in the military.
This amendment directs the Secretary of Defense to submit an annual report on the findings of the study relating to women’s health including completed, ongoing, and future projects. The Secretary must also identify areas for improvement and courses of action to address shortcomings. Both the report and courses of action must be submitted every year for three years.
“I’m lucky to have an incredibly dedicated Wounded Warrior on my staff, and her status is directly related to circumstances she faced in the service while pregnant. Every soldier is prepared to make sacrifices for her country, but she should not be expected to needlessly sacrifice her health, and the health of her children, to preventable conditions,” Stivers continued. “This amendment ensures we have the information necessary to create a battle plan to support our female servicemembers.”
The NDAA for FY 2020 is expected to be considered in the Senate imminently.