Women Veterans – a growing demographic

As I have mentioned in previous newsletter articles, women are the fastest growing demographic in the military, and the number using the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare has tripled since 2000 according to VA data.

While more women are relying on the VA, it is still a male-centric system with predominantly male waiting rooms, exam areas and doctors. Female veterans say the lack of gender specific care, privacy, facilities and security can be barriers to seeking treatment.

Representative Susie Lee, Chairwoman of the House VA Subcommittee on Technology Modernization has been involved in veterans medical care and women’s health issues. Rep. Lee was one of the sponsors of the “Breaking Barriers for Women Veterans Act”, which, if passed, would require the VA to make changes to better serve women. The VA would need to retrofit facilities to support care for female veterans. The bill was introduced last year and still remains in committee as of April 16, 2020.

The VA has taken some measures over the years to address women veterans concerns, but for some it has come a little too late. A majority of women in the VA system point to its continued troubling culture. It was reported in a national survey published by the VA in 2019 and found that one in four women veterans reported sexual harassment at VA facilities.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Women Veterans Committee has not been able to travel and make our visits, making it difficult to report on women veterans issues in the state of Wisconsin. However we have discussed doing a video blog for women veterans to click on a link to see information on the Deborah Sampson Act. It will be an ongoing blog to see what kind of response we can get out of the women veterans community across the United States. I will report more on that next month.

I would like to put out a big DAV shout in remembrance to Corporal Jessica Ellis. She enlisted in the US Army in 2004 as a medic and two years later was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). She deployed again to Iraq in October 2007 and was affectionately referred to as “Doc Ellis”.

She was killed on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2008, while serving as a medic to a team of combat engineers in Baghdad, when her vehicle was struck by a projectile bomb. She was 24 years old and was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Later, Admiral Mike Mullen wore a bracelet with Jessica Ellis’ name in memory of all the service members who died while he served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On Memorial Day in 2008, Admiral Mullins spoke of Ellis’ sacrifice in his message to the nation. As the family mourned at her grave in Arlington National Cemetery, they were joined by Admiral Mullin and his wife, Debra. Rest in Peace Corporal Ellis.

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