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Women Veterans Darlene McMartin, NACVSO Women Veterans Representative NACVSO conference June, 2014 Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Presentation on theme: "Women Veterans Darlene McMartin, NACVSO Women Veterans Representative NACVSO conference June, 2014 Grand Rapids, Michigan."— Presentation transcript:

1 Women Veterans Darlene McMartin, NACVSO Women Veterans Representative NACVSO conference June, 2014 Grand Rapids, Michigan

2 Women Veterans are among the fastest growing groups of new VA health care users of the VA healthcare system, and currently reflect approximately eight percent of all U.S. Veterans. With Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), women comprise a larger percentage of the military (11.3 percent) than of prior military operations. As of fiscal year 2010, 51.3 percent of female OEF/OIF Veterans had enrolled in VA health care. As of 2010, in sharp contrast to women from previous eras (an estimated 11 percent). Of this group, 88 percent have used VA health care more than once percent of female veterans have a service connected disability, that is nearly 3 percent more than male veterans. 1. Hazards, O. o. P. H. a. E. Women Veterans Health Care: Facts and Statistics [cited 2011; Available from: Women veterans their challenges, the primary services they need, and barriers they encounter

3 Specific issue related to Women Veterans Recognition and Respect Support and Family Physical and Mental Health Housing and Homelessness

4 Recognition and Respect Women veterans state that their combat experience as their primary transition challenge. People just don’t ask or outreach like they do with men, even other women. It is particularly difficult for women to make the transition from being a soldier to a civilian woman.

5 This public service announcement (PSA) challenges viewers to rethink preconceived notions about women Veterans. The PSA was developed from a new employee orientation video created as part of VA's ongoing efforts to change its culture to be more understanding and accommodating of women Veterans and the important service they have given our country. She Wore These: It's our job to give her the best care anywhere

6 Support and Family The biggest difficulty is the culture change. Others around them do not have the same experiences. Women veterans report feeling isolated from their civilian friends and commonly express the need for peer support from other veterans, especially women veterans who can understand and relate to their military experiences. Women are generally the primary caregivers; often, they don’t take the time they need to decompress and deal with their own needs before taking on care giving duties and their families’ respective needs.

7 Physical and Mental Health The most common physical health problems of women veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are back trouble and other muscular ailments; digestive illnesses; and genital or urinary system problems. Women veterans are twice as likely as male veterans to have reported mental health problems – such as anxiety or mood disorders Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, and they typically experience more PTSD symptoms and endure a longer course of illness than their male counterparts, 20% of women from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with PTSD. Depression – another combat related mental health condition – is a major challenge for women veterans Eating Disorders - 8% of the female military population and 7% of males suffer from bulimia, while 1.1 % of military women suffer from anorexia and 62.8% report unspecified disordered eating.

8 Housing and Homelessness VA recently reported that the number of homeless women veterans has grown from three percent a decade ago to five percent. The number of younger homeless women veterans is almost double – nine percent of homeless veterans are under age 45. Safety is an issue for homeless women; several women veterans describe being accosted or fearful while on the streets or when placed with men in shelter or other housing environments.

9 Employment and Education Many veterans, especially younger veterans, face challenges finding a job or immediately pursuing a career when leaving the military. 1. lack of nonmilitary work experience; 2. translating their military skills and experience to civilian employment opportunities; 3. and difficulty maintaining their composure and self- control during the work day due to normal readjustment after exposure to combat or to PTSD. Women veterans report feeling even more isolated as peer support and networking opportunities with other women veterans is lacking.

10 As an Advocate for Women Veterans what can/should we do? Give the recognition and respect for their military service. Provide opportunities to interact with other women veterans to share their experiences and provide/receive support. Support and services for themselves and for their families to re-establish family roles and relationships. Child care options. Access to high quality, gender-specific healthcare, separate spaces to receive care and treatment, and staff that are trained to understand and meet their needs. Access to high-quality mental and behavioral health treatment and services targeted to their specific issues and experiences, separate spaces to ensure privacy and safety, and staff that are trained to understand and meet their needs.

11 Refer for Military sexual trauma (MST) care and make sure that treatment in separate spaces to ensure privacy and safety, staff that are trained to understand and treat military sexual trauma, and outreach about MST and services. Locate suitable and affordable housing. Those who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, need gender-appropriate services, including private and safe shelters and transitional housing. Assist in obtaining education, employment and training opportunities that are targeted to meet their needs. Provide information about existing services and benefits; including specific outreach efforts directed at women veterans and focused on their areas of concern. As a CVSO we need to keep up to date on research and benefits for Women Veterans Always remember Women Veterans are veterans that want to be treated as a veteran. What can we continue to do?

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