Concerns of Women Veterans
By Blake HYFIELD
During the week of July 8, the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on economic opportunity held a hearing to discuss the different ways women veterans are affected by different programs throughout VA. In some areas, such as education and employment, women veterans are represented more favorably than non-veteran women and male veterans. However, there are areas where women veterans are underserved such as veteran homelessness programs. Women veterans have been the fastest growing population of veterans for years, and special attention must be paid to their specific needs.
Ensuring women veterans receive veterans’ benefits and services that honor their brave military service is one of the VFW’s top priorities. Currently, women comprise 15% of the active-duty military and 18% of the Guard and Reserve. With the steady increase of women wearing our nation’s uniform and their increased role in military operations, it has never been more important that we ensure women veterans have a VA that is ready and able to care for them when they transition back to civilian life.
Background. To gauge how well VA is serving women veterans and to identify areas where it needs to improve, the VFW’s women veterans’ advisory team commissioned a survey of women veterans to collect direct feedback from women veterans around the country. After analyzing survey responses and direct feedback from nearly 2,000 women veterans, the VFW has identified multiple recommendations to improve VA health care, outreach, training and homeless programs.
Health Care. The overwhelming majority of women veterans want VA to expand access to women-specific health care, which includes hiring more VA health care professionals who are able to identify and treat their unique health care needs. More specifically, women veterans want the opportunity to receive their health care from women health care providers. The VFW has urged Congress and VA to expand its Designated Women’s Health Primary Care Provider model to mental health clinics and other health care specialties. This would ensure all women veterans have access to health care professionals with specialized women’s health care training. The VFW has also urged VA to allow all women veterans to choose the gender of their health care provider.
Women veterans who use VA health care for family planning services are also concerned that VA requires copayments for preventative prescription drugs, such as contraceptives. This is counter to industry standards for private health insurance plans, which do not require out-of-pocket costs for preventative care prescriptions. The VFW has urged Congress to align VA’s cost share requirements with industry standards.
Identity & Outreach. The VFW was disturbed to hear from survey respondents that VA employees continue to confuse them for spouses and caregivers or challenge their veteran status. This is unacceptable and the VFW has urged VA to properly train its workforce to treat women veterans with the respect and dignity they have earned. The VFW also found that older women veterans were less likely to use their earned benefits and services compared to their younger counterparts, despite being equally as likely to be eligible or need such benefits and services. No veteran should be left to wonder what, if any, benefits she is eligible to receive. The VFW has urged VA to conduct targeted outreach to older women veterans who may not be aware of the veterans’ benefits and services VA provides.
Homelessness. Women veterans with children who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless face much different barriers than homeless veterans without children. In fact, homeless and at-risk veterans with children report the lack of childcare services impact their ability to receive the VA health care and job training services they need. The VFW has urged Congress and VA to ensure homeless veterans have access to childcare when receiving health care and job training services.
Homeless veterans were also concerned with the lack of access to job training programs and counselors who understand the challenges of being homeless. The VFW has urged Congress and VA to expand successful employment and peer-support programs to all homeless veterans to ensure they are able to obtain meaningful employment and stay off the streets.
The VFW wants to hear from you. If you would like to share your experience with VA health care or benefits, email VFW at email@example.com or call (800) 839-1899.
This article was taken from the June 28, 2019 VFW Action Corps Weekly.
Blake Hyfield is the post service officer for the local VFW and American Legion posts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.