Bill would back DBT screenings for vets, bipartisan group of Congress members say

A collection of Congress members recently introduced bipartisan legislation to bolster breast cancer screening for service members and their families.

The “Better and Robust Screening Today Act” would require the Department of Defense to cover digital breast tomosynthesis, the most effective screening tool for diagnosing this form of cancer, particularly for those with dense tissue, the lawmakers said. Currently, the Department of Veteran Affairs does cover DBT, however, TRICARE only does so as a secondary option.

Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ)—herself an Air Force vet—introduced the legislation on Nov. 21, noting that it has support from both parties and both chambers of Congress.

"Service members and their families sacrifice so much and deserve the best healthcare and technology available,” McSally said in a statement. “There is simply no good reason to deny DBT screening, the latest breast cancer imaging technology, to Tricare patients.”

She is joined in her sponsorship by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and U.S. House Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6) and Elise Stefanik (NY-21). In the same statement, Shaheen called the bill a “no brainer” and an “important fix to our healthcare system.”

Members of Congress first voiced concerns about screening coverage for vets this past summer, Radiology Business reported. In a July 19 letter to Military Health System leadership, dozens of lawmakers said they were “alarmed” to learn that TRICARE still does not cover DBT.

McSally and colleagues noted that such coverage is even more crucial as the female service member population has surged from just 2% of enlisted forces in 1973 up to 16% today.

In its own statement issued Monday, Nov. 25, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance applauded the bill’s introduction.

“We will continue to support these ongoing efforts and commend lawmakers for fighting to ensure that former and current members of the U.S. military whose mammograms show they have dense breast tissue have access to the same advanced screening options as those with private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid,” Executive Director Patrick Hope said.