Delphine Metcalf-Foster, National Commander
Honoring the women who served and sacrificed
Each March during Women’s History Month, I find myself reflecting on the storied past of women in the military. My train of thought inevitably travels to how we honor women veterans and their contributions. In this issue of DAV Magazine, you will find several articles that highlight the contributions of women veterans as well as outline how we as a nation can recognize their service.
I have said before that I have had too many sisters-in-arms tell me they often feel that they are unheard, unwelcome and unappreciated members of the veteran community. Recognizing women veterans goes beyond remembering both males and females serve in our nation’s military; it means honoring them by ensuring they have the resources and services available to meet their needs.
Newly introduced legislation is seeking to address the special needs of women veterans, and I encourage you to voice your support for the bill. H.R. 4635 would direct the secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the number of peer-to-peer counselors providing counseling for women veterans. As DAV outlined in its trailblazing report, Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home, women veterans face unique challenges reintegrating in their homes and communities after their discharge from military service.
Women veterans are more likely to be divorced, to be single parents, and to lack a social support network. They are also more likely to be unemployed and struggle financially, despite higher educational attainment than their male peers. Many are also coping with the aftermath of military sexual trauma and substance abuse disorders. These factors make women veterans more prone to homelessness and at higher risk for suicide.
Peer specialists have been shown to be especially successful in engaging veterans who could benefit from VA mental health services. Ensuring that culturally competent women peer specialists are available in the VA will provide increased understanding of the barriers to care women veterans face—such as lack of child care, legal assistance and assistance with job placement or training—and promote action to address these issues.
Too often, veterans—male or female—face a stigma in addressing invisible wounds. If passed into law, this legislation will play an important role in improving mental health care and addressing resource and service inequity facing women veterans.
DAV has long been a leader of the important culture shift underway to recognize women veterans and their contributions to our country, through equal access to benefits and quality health care. Please add your voice to the fight for equity in services for all veterans. Visit DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at davcan.org to contact your representatives today to ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 4635 and move it forward for final passage.
If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find her biography here.