VA Services Available to Female Veterans
Women veterans often face different challenges than their male counterparts, and with the women veteran population increasing, it is important to identify these challenges and learn how VA addresses them. To better understand women veteran-specific issues, you will find statistics below provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs touching on these topics:
- The total population of women veterans is anticipated to increase at a rate of approximately 18,000 per year for the next 10 years, making women one of the fastest growing subgroups of veterans.
- Women represented about 9.4% of the veteran population in 2015, totaling about 2 million.
- 840,000 women veterans used at least one VA benefit or service in 2015.
- The top 5 conditions that women veterans face most often are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, migraines, lower back pain, and complete removal of the Uterus and Ovaries.
- Approximately 1 in 5 women veterans reported experiencing military sexual trauma (MST) at some point during service.
- Female veterans are 250% more likely to take their own lives than civilian women, as compared to veteran men who are 19% more likely to take their own lives than civilian men.
What services does VA offer to female veterans?
Within the past 10 years, VA has made significant strides in increasing the number of women-specific healthcare benefits and services they offer. Each VA medical center has a Women Veterans Program Manager (WVPM) to advise and advocate for women veterans by coordinating vital services they may need such as primary and specialty care, as well as for chronic medical or reproductive health issues.
On May 13, 2018, VA’s updated VASRD (rating schedule) became effective to include gynecological conditions and disorders of the breast—conditions that were previously rated analogous. This change allows women veterans to be rated more accurately and equally to men.
Eligible women veterans can receive gynecological services such as pap smears and birth control as well as breast care with services such as mammograms and breast cancer treatment at VA medical centers. Additionally, VA will cover eligible women veterans’ female-specific Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Services (PSAS) like breast pumps, nursing bras, and post-mastectomy items.
VA will also provide or cover fertility care for female veterans with service-connected conditions that result in infertility either in a VA medical center or through a community care provider. Such medical services include hormonal therapies, surgical correction, counseling, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Women veterans eligible for VA healthcare can also receive pregnancy care, although it is most often through a community provider. For eligible female veterans, VA will pay for services like prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal care administered at a community care provider.
Inpatient and outpatient mental health care are available to women veterans at VA medical centers and at community-based treatment centers. In addition to these mental health care options, VA’s Vet Centers offer support for PTSD, depression, MST, readjustment, and substance abuse to all eligible veterans.
What is VA Doing to make Women feel more included?
Although VA has been male-dominated in the past, the emergence of female veterans has spurred the Department to create events targeted at empowering and aiding women veterans, which are organized by the Center for Women Veterans (CWV). Below you can find some of the programs VA has implemented to empower and assist female veterans:
- VA’s Nationwide Baby Shower 2018 took place at 60 VA medical centers across the county, timed around Mother’s Day, to support soon-to-be veteran and veteran spouse parents.
- The Women Veteran Athletes Initiative was launched in March 2018 to “raise national awareness of the service, diversity, and resilience of women Veterans” by featuring 10 female veteran athletes across 10 VAMCs nationwide in high-quality posters. The goal of this program is to encourage “women veterans to choose VA to support their health and wellness goals.”
- I Am Not Invisible Virtual Exhibit spotlights female veterans who work at the VA Central Office to increase awareness of the diverse veteran population helping other veterans and promote discussion about women veterans.
- Women Veterans Art Exhibit features art created by women veterans and travels throughout the country and is available online.
- The 2017 National Women Veterans Summit includes a series of webinars dedicated to providing information about VA benefits and services such as reproductive health, MST, and whole health.