Strengthening Programs and Services for Women Veterans
DAV continues to work for equal access to benefits and quality health care for women veterans.
Today, women are serving in the military in record numbers and increasing numbers have turned to the VA when they return home to address post-deployment health issues and readjustment challenges. Women are the fastest-growing subpopulation of the military and veteran communities, representing more than 15% of active-duty military and 10% of veterans. Yet despite much recent progress, some women veterans continue to face significant barriers accessing health care and other earned benefits, and still do not receive proper recognition for their service to the nation.
Women Veterans Legislation
DAV was pleased to see a heavy focus on women veterans issues in the 116th Congress—resulting in 11 congressional hearings and—and passage of several important pieces of legislation pertaining to women veterans’ health care services and infrastructure; suicide prevention and mental health; and the creation of an Office of Women’s Health within the Veterans Health Administration to oversee women’s health programs as well as counseling and legal services.
Additionally, in 2019, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano established the Congressional Women Veterans Task Force, chaired by Congresswoman Julia Brownley and tasked with developing women veterans-centered policy and transforming existing systems to better ensure equity among this growing population.
Ending Sexual Assault and Harassment
It is important to note that one in four women veterans report having experienced some form of sexual harassment within VA—a troubling problem that will require the full commitment of department leaders to solve. The VA broadened its End Harassment campaign into Stand Up to Stop Harassment Now! and in addition, introduced a virtual bystander intervention training tool in all its facilities to teach staff and providers how to intervene when witnessing inappropriate behaviors. The VA also launched its White Ribbon VA campaign in 2019, designed to eliminate sexual assault and harassment within VA health care settings.
DAV also brought this information to our members and audiences through video messages, DAV Magazine and the DAV podcast, doing our part to educate all VA health care users about the importance of treating each other with respect and dignity.
DAV’s Women Veteran Reports
DAV’s 2014 landmark report Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home and 2018 follow up, Women Veterans: The Journey Ahead, continue to be valuable resources into the expanding role of women in our armed forces and have helped usher in numerous policy and legislative changes to improve programs and services for women veterans.
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“The momentum is in favor of women veterans right now, and we want to harness the support and energy to continue driving meaningful reform to ensure all veterans have equitable access to the benefits and services they have earned.” – Joy J. Ilem, DAV’s national legislative director and U.S. Army veteran.