Advocacy Issue Brief:
Women Veterans

The Situation

  • Women make up nearly 15% of our active forces, 18% of the Guard and Reserve, and 20% of new military inductees. There are 1.8 million women veterans.
  • Between 2000 -2011, the number of women veteran VA patients doubled from approximately 160,000 to more than 337,000. VA projects that by 2020, women will comprise 10% of the overall veteran population and 9.5 % of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients.
  • To date, more than 100,000 women veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have utilized VA health care.

The Challenge

  • VA reports that, when compared to males, women users of VA services have higher physical and mental health needs; higher incidence of reported military sexual trauma; lower access and enrollment rates in VA care; higher levels of service-connected disability ratings; and higher risk of homelessness.
  • VA identified gender-based disparities in health care quality for management of certain chronic diseases, preventative care and prescribing of inappropriate medications.
  • In May 2012, VA’s Women Veterans Task Force issued a draft report in response to the Secretary’s 2011 charge to develop a comprehensive action plan for resolving identified gaps in how VA serves women veterans.
  • In the report, VA recognized that not all of its systems are equipped to address the comprehensive needs of women veterans with gender-based disparities continuing to exist, and that data collection gaps hamper VA’s understanding of women veterans needs and use of VA benefits and services.

The Solution

  • VA must devote sufficient resources to address identified gaps in privacy, safety and delivery of quality health care services to women veterans.
  • DAV urges VA to continue its focus on its strategic priorities designed to deliver the best health care services to women veterans of all eras so VA meets its goal of having comprehensive primary and gender specific care from a single proficient provider at all VA health care facilities by the end of 2013.
  • DAV urges VA to continue its outreach and gender specific media initiative as well as its gender specific research on women veterans to better understand the unique impact of military service on women’s lives and health-especially women who have served during wartime deployments.