2017-2018 Women’s Outreach:
Coordinator: Rita Chandler (55)
Assistant Coordinators: Joyce Miller (180), Sarah Maddox Dunn (32), Norma Jean Newman (120)
The current global war on terror illustrates a few deficiencies in services provided for women veterans. Never before have women servicemembers been engaged in constant combative environments. Participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom has forced them to expand their military roles to ensure their own survival, as well as the survival of their units. They sustain the same types of injuries that their male counterparts endure. Any future women veterans’ research will need to take into consideration the physical effects of combat on women veterans, not just mental effects of combat and military sexual trauma.
In the past 10 years, the number of homeless women veterans has tripled. In 2002, the VA began a study of women and PTSD. The study includes subjects whose PTSD resulted from stressors that were both military and non-military in nature. Preliminary research shows that women currently serving have much higher exposure to traumatic experiences, rape and assault prior to joining the military. Other reports show extremely high rates, 20 to 40 percent, of sexual trauma while women are in the service. Repeated exposure to traumatic stressors increases the likelihood of PTSD. Researchers also suspect that many women join the military, at least in part, to get away from abusive environments. Like the young veterans, these women may have no safe supportive environment to return to, adding yet more risk of homeless outcomes.
Providing quality health care in a rural setting has proven to be very challenging, given factors such as limited availability of skilled care providers and inadequate access to care. Even more challenging will be VA’s ability to provide treatment and rehabilitation to rural veterans, including women veterans, who suffer from the signature ailments of the ongoing global war on terror – traumatic blast injuries and combat-related mental health conditions. VA’s efforts need to be especially focused on these issues.
Gaining access to the nearest facility providing gender-specific services can prove even more of an obstacle, since the nearest facility may be a community-based outpatient clinic that may not offer these services.
The Department of Virginia’s Women’s Outreach Program focuses on women veterans helping women veterans as many women are not comfortable discussing their experiences and claims with male veterans.