Female veterans face unique challenges when transitioning home from combat. Check out all the ways IAVA is supporting women warriors below.
Women’s roles in the military are evolving - quickly. They have moved beyond their traditional positions as nurses and support staff. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they have guarded bases and POWs, patrolled hostile areas, gathered intelligence, rebuilt towns and commanded battalions.
As a result, women are more integrated into the military than ever before. They make up nearly 15% percent of the active duty force and 18% percent of the reserves – the highest rate since the U.S. military was established. As women make greater contributions to the military they are increasingly encountering the same issues as their male counterparts, sometimes even more so.
Women warriors have high rates of suicide, divorce and PTSD. And that’s just the start. We must ensure that they get the same levels of care as men do.
Women are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population. Not surprisingly, female use of VA health care is growing as well. Yet the VA health care system has been unprepared for the increased number of women using their facilities. While the VA has taken steps in the right direction, there is significant room for improvement in many areas. From improving access to female care to better training providers for women-specific procedures to increasing privacy practices, they have their work cut out for them.
America’s women warriors have contributed more than their fair share to the fight. It is our duty to ensure that they receive the benefits and care they deserve.
JOU “JESSI” TSENG, San Francisco, CA. Jessi enlisted in the U.S. Army after she graduated high school and was stationed at Ft. Lewis, WA. She deployed to Iraq in 2007 with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and was stop-lossed for six months. After leaving the Army, Jessi enrolled at University of California, Santa Barbara where she championed critical student veteran policies and services on campus. Priority registration, priority housing and a certified on-campus Post-Traumatic Stress counselor were all established because of Jessi’s advocacy. Jessi struggled to find full-time employment after she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree with honors in 2011. She currently works part-time at the San Francisco Veterans Resource Center while she applies to graduate schools.
LAURA ARAUJO. Long Beach, CA. Laura is a 27-year-old combat veteran of the U.S. Army. She served on active duty for 3 years while stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and deployed for a 15 month tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After graduating from California State University Long Beach, Laura interned with the IAVA policy team in Washington D.C for the summer of 2011, where she helped advocate for veterans within the legislative branch. Now separated from the U.S. Army Reserve, she works as a Graduate Fellow for JusticeCorps in Long Beach, California helping people of low socioeconomic status gain access to the legal system. She is passionate about social justice and ensuring veterans, and their families, get the help and benefits they deserve.
IAVA's Policy Recommendations
Improve Health Care for Female Veterans
- Increase funding for Vet Centers and VA medical facilities so the VA can hire more female practitioners, doctors who specialize in women’s health, mental health providers and outreach specialists.
- Increase availability of treatment options and quality care by allowing women enrolled in the VA health care system to be treated by physicians outside of the VA system if specialists in women’s health care are not available.
- Establish a firm deadline for the VA to provide comprehensive health care to women veterans, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The VA must also clearly outline the steps needed so that all facilities can meet this goal.
- Assure compliance in all VA facilities with the best practices for safety and privacy outlined in the March 2010 Government Accountability Office report on VA women’s health care policies and oversight.
- Report on the completion rates for participants in the women’s care mini-residency program. Establish standards requiring a percentage of staff at each VA facility be graduates of the mini- residency program to ensure that each facility is able to provide basic standards of quality care to women veterans and deadlines for compliance.
- Foster an internal culture that welcomes female veterans by strengthening the role of the woman veterans’ program manager within the VA and ensuring this position is given the authority necessary to implement policies.
Expand Benefits for Female Veterans
- Appropriate funding for a VA outreach and advertising campaign directed at female troops and veterans to help inform them of their eligibility for VA services, benefits and availability of the Women Veterans Coordinator.
- Report on the status of the VA pilot program on offering childcare services authorized by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. If appropriate, expand the program based on need.
- Evaluate current VA housing and assistance programs for homeless and displaced women veterans and their families and make recommendations for improvement.
- Read IAVA’s 2012 Policy Agenda.
- Read IAVA's groundbreaking Issue Report: "Women Warriors: Supporting She Who Has Borne the Battle"
- Visit Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). SWAN supports, defends and empowers today’s servicewomen and women veterans of all eras.
- Visit Joining Forces. An effort led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to bring attention to issues facing military families.
IAVA has helped thousands of veterans. Here are some of their stories:
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