Testifying today before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Deputy National Legislative Director Joy Ilem told Congress it must set deadlines for action by the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that women veterans have equal access to high-quality health care services and benefits.
“This is a transformative moment for the VA. Secretary Robert McDonald is leading an ambitious effort to change the culture at the VA and to direct resources where they will ensure that VA health care can meet the needs of every veteran,” said Ilem. “That cannot happen without a strong focus on women veterans and a detailed, action-orientated plan. We know exactly what issues women veterans face, and more importantly, how to solve them.”
DAV’s landmark study unveiled last fall closely examined the federal government programs and policies in place designed to help women in the military transition to civilian life. This report, Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home, found serious gaps for women across the federal landscape in health care services, housing options for homeless women veterans, transition assistance, employment, community support services, and specialized mental health services for survivors of sexual assault.
DAV’s report also created a roadmap for solutions, presenting 27 comprehensive and specific policy and programmatic recommendations to ensure women have access to equitable services and benefits that meet their gender-specific needs.
“The VA is making progress and there are men and women working diligently to implement many of these recommendations, but changes are not happening fast enough,” explained DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry J. Augustine.
The number of women veterans turning to VA for services has more than doubled in the last decade and that trend is expected to continue. An estimated 200,000 women are expected to leave the military over the next four to five years due to military downsizing. By 2020, estimates project 11 percent of all veterans will be women. Congress must ensure that steps are taken now, giving these women every chance to succeed in civilian life.
Today DAV called on Congress to exercise its oversight responsibility and require that, by Memorial Day, 2016 the following seven steps are completed:
- Every VA medical center must employ a part-time or full-time gynecologist. Today, only one-third of VA medical centers have a gynecologist on staff.
- VA must complete implementation of IT solutions that impact women’s health, including clinical reminders in the electronic health record on prescribing teratogenic medications to younger women and capturing vital gender-specific information, such as breast and cervical cancer screening results and abnormalities.
- VA must develop standards to ensure VA health care facility infrastructure meets the specific needs of women veterans. These standards should be integrated into prioritization for VA construction projects under VA’s Strategic Capital Investment Plan.
- Congress should authorize child-care services for veterans as a permanent program to support better access to VA health care, mental health programs, vocational rehabilitation, education, supported employment and other specialized services.
- Create a VA DoD interdisciplinary work group to assess access to gender-sensitive mental health programs for women veterans, including peer-to-peer support and services for unique post-deployment transition challenges. A full report, including recommendations of the work group must be provided to Congress by the legislated deadline.
- Increase the number of safe transitional and supportive beds designated for homeless women veterans to meet demand and the number of housing programs available to women veterans with dependent family members, especially minor children.
- Conduct a GAO study on VA’s ability to meet the health care needs of women veterans including an assessment of specialized programs for women seeking care for amputations, PTSD, burns, blindness, spinal cord injury and TBI.
For more information and additional resources, please visit www.dav.org/women-veterans.
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a nonprofit organization with 1.2 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at www.dav.org.
SOURCE DAV (Disabled American Veterans)