Elected Women Recognize Unique Needs of Women Veterans

November 11, 2011

Representative Gayle Harrell (FL) Talks with Members of the National Guard

Representative Gayle Harrell (FL) Talks with Members of the National Guard

President Obama recently announced that he plans to bring all U.S. Troops stationed in Iraq home by the end of the year. This announcement should serve as a stern reminder that we need to work even harder to ensure we have adequate systems in place to meet the needs of both the current and new veterans who have so bravely answered their call to duty.

This week we recognize Veterans Day, a time for all Americans to celebrate the patriotism, service, and sacrifice of those who have proudly put their own lives on the line to keep us out of harm's way.

It's often forgotten that since the beginning of time, women have served in all wars and conflicts. The history of women in the military is a history of love for country, service, commitment, dedication, and courage, and it includes sacrifices that have largely gone unrecognized. That is changing, and we must be part of that change.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that approximately 1.8 million of the nation's 23 million veterans are female. 30,000 single mothers were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, 1 in 5 women screened reported military sexual trauma and 9,000 women veterans have received prosthetics. The number of female veterans is expected to increase by 14 percent through 2035. America's returning women warriors exhibit many new impacts of deployment and combat, providing new challenges for the VA, mental health professionals, healthcare providers, and policy makers.

These numbers are staggering, both in their reality and in their effect on families, communities and the nation. Recognizing the importance of engaging and working with this emerging population of veterans that have unique needs, the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) is proud to partner with organizations such as the WestCare Foundation, Family Alliance for Veterans of America, Grace After Fire, and of course the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Women Veterans - organizations that are actively identifying the resources that are available and working to fill a quickly widening gap in services, specifically for women veterans, who are dealing with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, military sexual trauma, homelessness, physical health, and family dynamics in a way that is very different from their male counterparts.

For decades the VA has been at the forefront for healthcare and lifestyle solutions affecting an aging male population, however now we must identify innovative courses of treatment and solutions to obstacles that are unique to women veterans such as pregnancy, breast cancer, and other medical concerns. We hope you will join us in this effort to identify and implement new strategies to meet the everyday challenges that women veterans face. We encourage women veterans and their families to bring specific needs and concerns to our attention.

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