AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff has introduced legislation that has received bipartisan support. This new legislation could make a difference in the care of pregnant women in the military – not only with their health care, but with their mental health care. It is an issue that the senator is passionate about. He joins The Means Report to explain what is behind the legislation and why it is so important.

Brad Means: Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule, to be my guest. Senator, welcome back to “The Means Report” and thank you for your service.

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Thank you, Brad. Great to see you hope you and your family are well.

Brad Means: Absolutely same to you. Same to you. And I’m excited today to talk to you about some legislation that you’re co-sponsoring when it comes to improving maternal and mental healthcare for women and access to that care, especially pregnant women in the military. Now, let me just ask you a general question to start. It seems like six months ago, maybe late last year, seven months, we were talking about pregnancy rights in the workplace. Now you’re pushing pregnancy rights in the military. What led you down this whole path?

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Well, there’s nothing more important than healthy babies and healthy mothers. And this bipartisan effort that I’m leading is about ensuring that military moms get the very best healthcare that we’re focused on ensuring that military moms have access to the mental health services that they need during pregnancy around delivery and after delivery. You know, our military service members already make such huge sacrifices. Our military families already make such huge sacrifices. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice great healthcare and military moms are under a lot of stress. Oftentimes they’re facing an imminent deployment. They may only get six weeks off after delivering a child. So I want to be there for the military moms at Fort Gordon in the Augusta area, across the state and across the country. And that’s why I’m leading this bipartisan effort to strengthen maternal mental healthcare for military moms. And I really want to emphasize that it’s bipartisan.

Brad Means: Right.

Sen. Jon Ossoff: I know that there is so much sound and fury and division in Washington, but I’m bringing Democrats and Republicans together to help ensure our military moms get the care and support they need.

Brad Means: What have you heard back here in Georgia when it comes to the needs of these military moms? Are they saying, Senator, we can’t get to the doctor or Senator that six weeks is not enough with my newborn? What do they tell you?

>>Military families are under a tremendous amount of stress right now. And you know, military moms, some may need to move from the barracks to housing off post around the birth of a child. They gotta be thinking about daycare, have to be thinking about the extraordinarily high cost of housing off post or in privatized housing on post. And then the quality of privatized housing on post. That’s why I led separately an eight month bipartisan investigation of the conditions of housing on post at Fort Gordon. It’s why for service members who are relying upon the basic allowance for housing to live on or off post I’m working to increase the BAH especially in parts of the country where housing costs are high. It’s why I’m leading the charge along with bipartisan colleagues to raise military pay by four and a half percent, the largest increase in recent history. And it’s why I’m leading this bipartisan push to strengthen maternal healthcare for military moms because our military families deserve the best and they make huge sacrifices for us, we gotta be there for them.

Brad Means: I know that you said that both parties are working feverishly on this legislation, but does the outcome of this measure and other military related measures that you’re backing, does it depend on the makeup of Congress after the midterms? Or do you think this is something we can push through sooner?

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Well, I think that I was elected to get things done for Georgians, without regard for political party. So this push to increase pay for military service members is bipartisan, my legislation to help increase the basic allowance for housing, for military families in places where housing costs are high is bipartisan. This effort that I’m leading to strengthen mental healthcare services for military moms is bipartisan. And what that means is that we can make progress over time without having to think all the time about politics. Ultimately, what folks need are solutions, good public policy. Democrats, and Republicans working together to do what’s in the public’s interest.

Brad Means: Do you think we can make this happen before the elections, or is this something that people who are hearing these proposals and they are exciting proposals, something maybe we should exercise patients for going forward? Is it years not months before we see some of the benefits you’ve referenced?

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Well, look it is difficult in these divided times, of course in Congress, but I have had success working across the aisle to get things done, passing legislation through the Senate, for example, to address the opioid crisis, passing bipartisan legislation in the Senate to reduce crime and violence and civil rights abuses in prisons. These bipartisan efforts that I’m leading to support our military families. So I’m gonna keep working every day to maximize the chances that we can get these things done. We’ll have the national defense authorization act this fall, and we can get things done through that. We’ll have the appropriations legislation that sets the budget for the federal government for next year. So I’m gonna keep working across the aisle and doing what I can to pass legislation with supports military families.

Brad Means: Senator, let me ask you about the way that we will pay for some of these services that you’ve outlined, especially when it comes to let’s just say mental health treatment and access for women, for pregnant women in the military. Is this a cost that there their families might have to bear? Or is this something that the government would subsidize until they’re back on the road to good health?

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Well, let me just point out, first of all, that, if we allow mental health issues or physical health issues to go unaddressed, the costs only increase over time. We wanna get ahead of these issues and that’s the fiscally responsible thing to do as well as what’s in the best interest and best health of service members and military families. So this bipartisan effort that I’m leading to strengthen mental health services for military moms will help us to avoid much more serious and costly problems that can be so damaging for families and financially costly for families down the road. The other legislation that I’ve introduced that I wanna highlight another bipartisan bill that I’ve introduced is to make mental healthcare services available to service members and military families, three visits per year with no out of pocket costs. Because again, we want to encourage military service members and their families to access mental healthcare services.

Brad Means: You know, there’s concern if you hear from opponents to bills like this, that some mental health issues would be applied when crimes have been committed. In other words, someone might say, well, that person really didn’t commit a crime, nor should they go through the criminal justice system because they have a mental illness. And they’re worried that bills like this will help those who commit crimes and then claim mental illness. Your thoughts on that?

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Well, no, one’s raised that objection with regard to this policy. And this is just common sense. This is about strengthening the quality of mental healthcare services for military moms. Let me give you an example why that’s so important. We’re seeing a higher incidence of postpartum depression among mothers in the military than in the general population, because women in the military are under so much stress because they’re worried about moving from the barracks to housing on or off post, because they’re worried about that upcoming deployment that could separate them from their newborn baby. We wanna make sure that those moms have access to the mental healthcare resources they need and the overall healthcare resources, they need to stay happy and healthy so they can take care of their kids so they can do their best in their jobs.

Brad Means: Well, there is opposition to the mental health measures that have been pushed through Congress when it comes to concern about criminals, getting under that mental health umbrella and skirting the legal system. But let me just ask you this about what you just said, the treatment for these pregnant women. If you look at the numbers, let’s just say the internet is correct. And there’s about 2 million active duty and reserved members in the armed forces who are women, 2 million, 16,000 of them have babies every year. That’s a tiny, tiny, less than 1% amount of service members. Why are you so focused on them?

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Well, look, I’m focused on improving quality of life and health for all families in Georgia, for all military families in Georgia, for moms across the state for newborn babies across the state, I’m leading efforts, bipartisan efforts to strengthen pediatric healthcare. statewide. I’m leading this effort to strengthen healthcare for moms in the military, especially with regard to their mental health when they’re under a lot of stress just after having given birth. And that’s, this is a bipartisan common sense initiative. And I think we’ve got a really good shot at getting it done.

Brad Means: Listen, I just have a couple of minutes if I’m gonna stay true to my promise to your staff, to get you out of here on time. So let me switch to the economy.

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Sure.

Brad Means: And just ask you Senator, when will be, able to afford things again, it’s tough out here.

Sen. Jon Ossoff: It is. It’s a real crisis and it requires strong affirmative action by the federal government. I have to say I was disappointed in the Fed’s posture last year, but that’s one of the reasons that I was one of very few Democrats in the Senate to oppose J Powell’s reconfirmation as the Fed chair, because the Fed got behind in the curve last year, they’re playing catch now. And that comes with its own risks. I’m not an economic forecaster, but what I do know is this families are hurting. Families are hurting very badly. The cost of prescription drugs, the price at the pump, the crisis of home affordability. And that’s one of the reasons for example, for military families, I’ve been so focused on helping them to afford housing because housing costs are going up significantly.

Brad Means: Well, Senator I can’t thank you enough, not only for your time, but as I mentioned at the beginning of our interview, your service to this country, you’ve been good to “The Means Report” since you’ve taken office and even before and I really do appreciate it. Please take care.

Sen. Jon Ossoff: Thank you so much.

Brad Means: Absolutely. Senator Jon Ossoff our special guest.