Bio: Senator Joni Ernst has dedicated her life to Iowa and her country, having served in the military for over 23 years and now in the United States Senate.
Born and raised on a farm in southwest Iowa, Ernst received her undergraduate degree from Iowa State University where she joined the university’s ROTC program. She retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard after more than 23 years of military service.
Known for her independent leadership and commitment to public service, Ernst previously served as the Montgomery County Auditor where she worked to eliminate wasteful government spending and protect taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. As a state senator, she fought to balance the state budget and helped turn Iowa’s $900 million budget deficit into a $1 billion surplus.
In November 2014, Ernst was elected as the first woman to serve in federal elected office from the State of Iowa and also became the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the United States Senate. In Washington, she serves on four Senate committees: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Environment and Public Works; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Ernst resides in Montgomery County, Iowa with her husband and daughter.
Military Bio: While an undergraduate student at Iowa State University, Joni Ernst joined the United States Army Reserve Officer Training (ROTC) program. After graduation, she went on to join the U.S. Army Reserves. In 2003, she deployed to Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom as company commander of the Iowa National Guard’s 1168th Transportation Company, leading 150 Iowa Army National Guardsmen in running supply convoys into southern Iraq. In November 2015, after more than 23 years of military service, Ernst retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.
Legislation: Having served in leadership roles in both the military and the government, Senator Ernst understands the duty of our nation to ensure our veterans receive the benefits and care they deserve. It is critical that we help transition our veterans back to civilian life, which includes making sure they have access to timely and quality health care, so that our veterans may reach their highest potential. In the United States Senate, Senator Ernst has introduced several pieces of legislation to increase the quality of life for our veterans, including improving access and choice in health care for veterans, and honoring the life and legacy of those who have bravely served in defense of our nation:
Prioritizing Veterans Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2015: This was the first piece of legislation Senator Ernst introduced and provides an option for veterans to receive immediate authorization for non-VA mental health treatment if a veteran feels they could not receive timely or adequate care from the VA.
Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2015: This bipartisan bill improves health care access for disabled or rural veterans by expanding telehealth services offered by the VA. This bill allows qualified VA health professionals to operate across state lines and conduct telehealth services, including mental health care treatment, for veterans from the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act: This bipartisan legislation puts military sexual trauma survivors in control of their own health care by giving them the opportunity, flexibility, and discretion to choose treatment options that best suit their needs, even if that care is outside of a Veterans Administration facility.
Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act: On July 1, 2016, President Obama signed Senator Ernst’s bipartisan Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act into law. Suicide among female veterans is higher than that of their male counterparts when compared to the general population, and six times more likely to occur in veterans versus non-military females. This legislation addresses this critical problem by requiring the VA to identify the most effective mental health and suicide prevention programs for our female veterans.
Legislation to Restore the Inurnment Rights of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) At Arlington National Cemetery: Following a policy change by the Army, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who served courageously during World War II were denied their rights to have their ashes placed at Arlington National Cemetery. This bipartisan legislation to restore their rights was signed into law by President Obama in May of 2016, and these extraordinary women can now once again be honored with their full military rights.