A DAV report says the Veterans Affairs Dept. services are geared mostly for male vets.
Frederick, Md (KM). There needs to be some changes when it comes to accessing services by women military veterans. That’s according to a report released on Wednesday by the Disabled American Veterans which states that some female veterans face significant barriers when it comes to health care and other benefits.
“We’ve seen women veterans serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan coming back with war-related injuries that we haven’t seen before as well as just an overall impact of military service on both the physical and mental health of women,” says Joy Ilem, National Legislative Director of the DAV.
According to the DAV, women are the fastest growing subpopulation of the military and veterans communities, representing 15% of active duty military, and 10% of veterans. But they experience difficulties in getting their health care and other earned benefits, and don’t receive proper recognition for their service to their country.
Ilem says some of it is due to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ doctors whose patients are mostly men, and they’re not prepared for problems experienced by women following their military service. “They’re also seeing a significant number of younger women veterans that are having babies,” she says. “Maternity care is something the VA never provided. Now they have to purchase that care in the community.”
She also says DVA has world class amputation care, but a lot of it is geared toward male veterans. “They need to also allow for the differences in treating a woman veteran who is pregnant that has an amputation, and they need frequent adjustments to their prosthesis due to their weight fluctuation during pregnancy,” says Ilem.
Women have served in the armed forces in the past, dating back to World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, but only in a support capacity. Ilem says now they’re closer to combat operations. “Just the nature of military service these days exposes you. And you’re seeing women with amputations; women have been killed; women with traumatic brain injury; all those things you would see in male veterans. We’ve been seeing that over the last decade or so,” she says.
The report from the DAV containing 45 recommendations was presented to DVA officials and members of Congress on Wednesday. The report deals with a broad range of issues affecting women veterans, including primary and gender-specific health care, mental health and readjustment services, and disability and employment benefits.
Ilem says DAV intends to push for change when it comes to services provided to female veterans. “We’ll be taking our advocacy to Capitol Hill, trying to get legislation introduced for some of changes that may require legislative action,” she says. “We’ll also be working with the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans and women’s health programs to talk about these issues.”
The report can be found on line at www.DAVWomenVeterans.org.
By Kevin McManus