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National Commander Message

National Commander Message

Nancy Espinosa, Commander

The journey to mental wellness

The end of my service in the Army was marked by adversity. I was mourning the unexpected loss of my sister and the sudden death of my stepdaughter. Not long before, I had undergone a major surgery and was incorrectly told that I had months to live.

Needless to say, it was a traumatic and trying time in my life. With the support of my family, I decided to take a hardship discharge from the Army and transition to the New Mexico National Guard.

I turned to my local Department of Veterans Affairs medical center for health care, but at the time, I found it ill-equipped to address women’s health. There seemed to be little support or understanding of the unique experiences and needs of women veterans.

As I dealt with grief and life changes, I needed mental health care, too. But if the VA couldn’t handle my gender-specific health needs, I didn’t think it was prepared to handle my mental health care either.

This was in the early 1990s, and to be sure, much has changed since then. The VA has made significant investments in women’s health research and expanded gender-specific care. Access and awareness have greatly improved. But there is much work to be done when it comes to lifesaving mental health care for women veterans, and the stakes are high.

New data released by the VA in November showed that between 2020 and 2021, the suicide rate among women veterans jumped 24.1%. As a longtime leading advocate for women veterans, DAV was already examining mental health among women veterans when the latest data came to light. Last month, DAV released its third report on women veterans, Women Veterans: The Journey to Mental Wellness, which you can read more about on Page 18.

It is the most comprehensive assessment of the unique factors contributing to the staggering rates of suicide and other negative mental health outcomes among women veterans. It considers the impact of military sexual trauma, reproductive health and social support. It identifies gaps in care and understanding and makes over 50 recommendations intended to spark urgent change that can save lives.

In this magazine, in the report and at, you will also find personal mental health stories of women veterans. By sharing some of the most vulnerable and harrowing parts of their lives, they remind us of what’s really at stake.

And now, we need your help. As members of this community, you are in the best position to educate and advocate for your fellow veterans. Become familiar with this report. Discuss it at your chapter meetings. Call on your elected representatives and local VA leaders to consider our recommendations. Encourage women veterans in your community to use VA care and share their experiences.

Do this and you can help us keep our promise to all of America’s veterans.


If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find her biography here.