Earlier this week the American Legion released the results of a survey of women veterans’ opinions on VA services. They found that 25% of women have been dissatisfied with their experiences using VA health care, and 40% were dissatisfied with the screening for Military Sexual Trauma. Numerous personal stories have been published detailing what obstacles women veterans encounter when they do try to obtain services, including Jennifer Hunt’s recent post describing the difficultly she had obtaining care during her pregnancy. She sums up her experience as such:
Through my entire pregnancy I encountered every stumbling block female Veterans face when accessing VA: my service in the Armed Forces was poorly understood, there were long wait times for appointments, I received fractured care and was forced to cut through miles of red tape. My successes in using VA for care have come from me spending hours of phone calls on hold, sending countless emails and being my own advocate. Many Veterans may not have the luxury of the time I’ve been able to put in.
Her experience is not unique – countless women veterans have told similar stories of not being understood, mistreated, or not having access to gender-specific medical services. Since women make up 14% of the current active-duty force and the number of women veterans is constantly growing, it seems obvious that more needs to be done to address their needs. There are efforts underway to do this, although change is coming slowly. Women veterans have spoken up about what they need and want from the VA, including Carolyn Schapper, who recently wrote about a positive experience at her local VA’s “Ladies Night” and described changes she’d like to see:
I do not want to separate the women from the men too much, as we served together and for the most part our needs are the same, but the men dominate VA 365 days a year, it was nice to get one night. However, we need more than one night a year. I recommend a quarterly out-reach…more opportunities to get women registered and see that VA is attempting to address their needs…VA is trying to reach out and adapt to the growing female Veteran community, and needs feedback, both good and bad, in order to make these improvements.
There is a long way to go to obtain adequate and respectful health care for women veterans at the VA. Thankfully they are attempting moves in the right direction – it is my hope that women veterans will continue to voice their opinions and speak up about their treatment, so that it is clear that these are services that cannot wait.
Female Vets Find Room for VA Improvement – American Legion
My VA Care – Jennifer Hunt
VA Exceeded My Expectations – Carolyn Schapper
Survey: Female Vets Frustrated with VA Health Care – Stars and Stripes
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