VFW Magazine March 2011 : Page 10

issuesupfront ‘Not Little Men’: VA Focuses on Women Veterans As the number of women veterans rises,VA must adapt. One proposed change is posting a Women Veterans Bill of Rights in all VAfacilities. By Kelly Von Lunen I n recent years, the disparity between VAhealth care for men and women appears to be shrinking—a trend that VFW supports through a reso-lution and its Priority Goals. That women are now a significant percentage of service members and vet-erans is widely known. In addition, 6% of veterans who currently use VA health care are women. The number has dou-bled since 2004, and VA expects it to do so again by 2020. The average age of female veterans is 48, compared to 61 for male veterans. About 78% of women veterans seeking VAhealth care today are younger than 40, and 66% of female Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans enrolled in VA health care are under 30. However, as of Jan. 12, only one piece of pending legislation zeroes in on women vets. Right to be Treated With Respect A proposed bill—H.R. 5953—would require a Women Veterans Bill ofRights to be prominently displayed in each VA facility and distributed to veterans. Among the 24 rights is the right to: • Coordinated, comprehensive, primary women’s health care at every VA medi-cal facility. • Be treated with dignity and respect at all VA facilities. • Request and get treatment by clinicians with specific training and experience in women’s health issues. • Be featured proportionately, including by age and ethnicity, in VA outreach materials, including electronic and print media. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.),does not change women veter-ans’ rights, but rather makes them visible in VA facilities.An amendment to the bill also requires that signs specify no change has been made to federal laws prohibiting VAfrom providing abortion services. The House of Representatives passed VFW Supports Women Veterans VFW’s 2011 Priority Goals include three women’s health initiatives: • Hire specialized health care providers for women veterans. • Provide training for gender-specific care, mental health care, PTSD and military sexual trauma. • Improve VA outreach so that all vet-erans—especially female, minority and rural veterans—are aware of the range of health care services and benefits available to them. VFW Res. 608 incorporates these initiatives. 10 • VFW • March 2011 H.R. 5953 by voice vote on Nov. 30, 2010. However, the 111th Congress did not act upon the bill. ‘We Are Not Little Men’ At a July 28, 2010, Forum for Women Veterans at Arlington National Ceme-tery, VA officials outlined initiatives to improvewomen vets’ health care, mental health care, PTSD treatment, readjust-ment services, prosthetics, and benefits awareness,and reduce homelessness. VA earmarked nearly $220 million in its 2011 budget for gender-specific care of female veterans,up some 10% from 2010. Among other things, the money will help fund a 24/7 call center and social net-working site for female war zone vets. Of the nearly 2 million women who have served in the U.S. military, more than 245,000 have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Women make up 14% of active-duty troops, and 17.6% of the National Guard and reservists. VA esti-mates that women veterans will consti-tute 16% of all vets by 2020—twice today’s number. The number of women working at VA also is up. Dr. Antonette Zeiss, VA deputy chief ofMental Health Services, says that 55% of VA psychologists, 72% of VA social workers and 41% of VA psychiatrists are women. VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group has produced 19 health awareness posters specifically for women veterans. “The significance of branding … can’t be overlooked,” said Patty Hayes, chief consultant for the group. “It is important that when a woman walks into a VA facility, she sees images of women veterans like herself.” VA announced in January that it is evaluating emergency room (ER) care for women,rolling out an education plan for ER providers, implementing a breast cancer registry to assist in follow-up of abnormal mammograms, and training 400 more providers in women’s health. The focus on women’s health is impor-tant because some medical issues do not present the same in women as in men. For example, women react differently to some medications, develop diseases at different rates, and exhibit different symptoms to various conditions. Even prosthetics are customized for women. “If you lost your leg,we have a prosthe-sis that allows you to wear stiletto heels,” Natara Garovoy, director of the Women’s Prevention, Outreach & Education Center in Menlo Park, Calif., told The Washington Post. “We are not little men.” [Garovoy was pictured on the cover of VFWmagazine in March 2009.] 7 E-mail kvonlunen@vfw.org

Issues Up Front

Kelly Von Lunen

In recent years, the disparity between VA health care for men and women appears to be shrinking—a trend that VFW supports through a resolution and its Priority Goals.<br /> <br /> That women are now a significant percentage of service members and veterans is widely known. In addition, 6% of veterans who currently use VA health care are women. The number has doubled since 2004, and VA expects it to do so again by 2020.<br /> <br /> The average age of female veterans is 48, compared to 61 for male veterans. About 78% of women veterans seeking VA health care today are younger than 40, and 66% of female Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans enrolled in VA health care are under 30.<br /> <br /> However, as of Jan. 12, only one piece of pending legislation zeroes in on women vets.<br /> <br /> Right to be Treated With Respect<br /> <br /> A proposed bill—H.R. 5953—would require a Women Veterans Bill of Rights to be prominently displayed in each VA facility and distributed to veterans. Among the 24 rights is the right to:<br /> <br /> • Coordinated, comprehensive, primary women’s health care at every VA medical facility.<br /> <br /> • Be treated with dignity and respect at all VA facilities.<br /> <br /> • Request and get treatment by clinicians with specific training and experience in women’s health issues.<br /> <br /> • Be featured proportionately, including by age and ethnicity, in VA outreach materials, including electronic and print media.<br /> <br /> The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), does not change women veterans’ rights, but rather makes them visible in VA facilities. An amendment to the bill also requires that signs specify no change has been made to federal laws prohibiting VA from providing abortion services.<br /> <br /> The House of Representatives passed H. R. 5953 by voice vote on Nov. 30, 2010. However, the 111th Congress did not act upon the bill.<br /> <br /> ‘We Are Not Little Men’<br /> <br /> At a July 28, 2010, Forum for Women Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery, VA officials outlined initiatives to improve women vets’ health care, mental health care, PTSD treatment, readjustment services, prosthetics, and benefits awareness, and reduce homelessness.<br /> <br /> VA earmarked nearly $220 million in its 2011 budget for gender-specific care of female veterans, up some 10% from 2010. Among other things, the money will help fund a 24/7 call center and social networking site for female war zone vets.<br /> <br /> Of the nearly 2 million women who have served in the U.S. military, more than 245,000 have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Women make up 14% of active-duty troops, and 17.6% of the National Guard and reservists. VA estimates that women veterans will constitute 16% of all vets by 2020—twice today’s number.<br /> <br /> The number of women working at VA also is up. Dr. Antonette Zeiss, VA deputy chief of Mental Health Services, says that 55% of VA psychologists, 72% of VA social workers and 41% of VA psychiatrists are women.<br /> <br /> VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group has produced 19 health awareness posters specifically for women veterans.<br /> <br /> “The significance of branding … can’t be overlooked,” said Patty Hayes, chief consultant for the group. “It is important that when a woman walks into a VA facility, she sees images of women veterans like herself.”<br /> <br /> VA announced in January that it is evaluating emergency room (ER) care for women, rolling out an education plan for ER providers, implementing a breast cancer registry to assist in follow-up of abnormal mammograms, and training 400 more providers in women’s health.<br /> <br /> The focus on women’s health is important because some medical issues do not present the same in women as in men. For example, women react differently to some medications, develop diseases at different rates, and exhibit different symptoms to various conditions. Even prosthetics are customized for women.<br /> <br /> “If you lost your leg,we have a prosthesis that allows you to wear stiletto heels,” Natara Garovoy, director of the Women’s Prevention, Outreach & Education Center in Menlo Park, Calif., told The Washington Post. “We are not little men.” [Garovoy was pictured on the cover of VFWmagazine in March 2009.]

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