Congratulations on your appointment as your department or chapter commander’s women veterans adviser! You are a critical cornerstone between women veterans in your community and DAV.
The first step in tackling this role is to talk to your commander about any expectations they have for your position. Ask if you will have a budget, if there will be a reporting requirement for the committee and if there are specific goals to meet.
While your department or chapter will ultimately help to determine your objectives in this role based on the unique needs of women veterans in your area, there are three general areas where we recommend advisers focus their efforts: outreach, resource development and advocacy.
This guide is merely a starting point for your work and should be adjusted to consider the availability of local programs and resources, as well as the makeup of the women veterans population in your area. Here are a few recommendations to help get you started or expand your role, under the three aforementioned focus areas:
- Build a network of women veterans in your area so you can keep each other informed about key issues. Use the information developed for Benefits Protection Team leaders to build your own network for women veterans.
- Contact DAV’s Membership Department at [email protected] or 888-236-8313 to request a hot list of prospective members to help identify women veterans in your area. You can introduce yourself and DAV to these individuals, check if they have access to the benefits they need and help connect them with resources they may need.
- If your department or chapter has a newsletter, ask if you can introduce yourself in an article and share your plans with members.
- Develop a “Welcome to DAV” package for new women members. This can be as simple as providing an up-to-date list of contacts, such as key members of your department or chapter (including you), and Department of Veterans Affairs officials, such as the facility director, women veterans program manager, and patient advocates and nearby Vet Centers. Always include contact information for:
- Yourself and DAV.
- The VA Center for Women Veterans.
- Women Veterans Health. Call or text 855-VA-WOMEN (855-829-6636).
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 988 or 1-800-273-8255, press 1, or text 838255. Deaf or hard-of-hearing users should call TTY 1-800-799-4889.
- Let your local VA women veterans program manager know you are interested in visiting hospitalized women veterans or women veterans residing in VA community living centers (VA nursing homes), community nursing homes or local State Veterans Homes. Provide them with any outreach materials your department or chapter has available, including any items you provide at outreach events.
- Once you have met key VA officials and developed a women’s network, consider hosting a women veterans outreach event. This can highlight your commander’s activities and priorities, something new at the VA or an issue common to women veterans. Take cues from members’ interests and from national health awareness months. (For example, host an event on sexual trauma during April, which is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness month, or heart health in February.) Make sure you seek approval of the topic, speaker and logistics (time; date; place; and anticipated costs for such items as refreshments, publications or DAV store items) from your commander and ask them to attend, if possible. If you need any published materials from DAV for your event, please contact DAV’s Procurement Department at [email protected]. If you have a budget, consider purchasing items from our online store to include in your welcome kit.
- To understand the basic issues women veterans face, review DAV’s Issue Brief and our 2018 report Women Veterans: The Journey Ahead. Both documents are available at www.dav.org/women-veterans.
- Identify and reach out to meet with the women veterans program manager at your local VA medical center. She may be able to facilitate connections to other relevant coordinators, including coordinators for military sexual trauma (MST), intimate partner violence (IPV), homelessness, maternity care, mammography and other women’s resources. Talk about any special events occurring for women veterans, and see if there is a women veterans advisory group that meets regularly with her or the facility director. Ask if there are other program managers she would recommend talking with, such as the MST coordinator. Share your plans and ask for her support. Ask her to speak at your department or chapter meeting.
- Reach out to the women veterans coordinator and MST coordinator at your VA regional office, as they can provide specific information and comprehensive assistance regarding claims and benefits for women veterans. While department and chapter service officers are available to assist veterans with claims work, developing relationships with these coordinators can help you help women veterans.
- If you have not done so already, sign up for DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at dav.quorum.us. You’ll find DAV-supported legislation that’s relevant to women veterans and be notified when important legislative activities occur.
- Identify and contact your chapter or department Benefits Protection Team leader. Ask this individual about current women veterans legislative issues, and set up regular status updates to keep each other informed of anything affecting women veterans in your area.
- Contact your state veterans program office to discuss any state programs or benefits for women veterans.