This story is part of DAV’s 2024 report, Women Veterans: The Journey to Mental Wellness. The report is a comprehensive assessment of the unique factors contributing to the staggering rates of suicide among women veterans and how the system charged with their mental health care can and must do better. Learn more at  

Several years ago, Air Force veteran Maria Luque started experiencing crippling anxiety.

“It just stopped me,” Luque said.

Despite having a doctorate in health sciences and studying menopause for over a decade, Luque was taken by surprise by the symptoms associated with menopause. She eventually broached the topic with her VA doctor (whom she said is fantastic) and quickly got the care she needed.

However, Luque said a majority of the women she’s talked to about menopause—including civilians who receive health care through the private sector—say they have felt dismissed by doctors.

“And when you get dismissed like that … it’s very hard to kind of bounce back,” said Luque, a DAV member and the founder of Fitness in Menopause, a company dedicated to improving quality of life for women in menopause through physical activity.

“We need to do better.”

Usually, menopause comes with fluctuations in hormone production, beginning between ages 45 and 55, and is often accompanied by a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep disruption, body aches, weight gain, incontinence and memory problems. Menopause has also been shown to raise the risk for depression twofold in U.S. women and corresponds to the highest rates of suicide in U.S. women.

“Any woman at their healthiest, best mental state gets hit with menopause [and] can really be affected by it,” Luque said. “Let’s layer on the combat part of maybe a woman veteran, and let’s layer on the possible sexual trauma that happened during military service as well on top of that.”

She called it a “perfect storm.”

Luque, who is also an alum of DAV Patriot Boot Camp for entrepreneurs, said many women lack the information needed to effectively advocate for themselves when menopause hits. Given the demographics of women using VA health care and their complex mental health histories, she said the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to be more proactive in reaching women veterans and discussing menopause.

“I feel like there is a lack of information [and] there’s a lack of services specifically geared towards this,” she said.