Ed. note: On March 11, 2009, President Obama established the inter-agency White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure the programs and policies of the federal government are being crafted and implemented with the wellbeing of our women and girls at the forefront of our thinking and priorities. This post is part of a month-long series highlighting government-wide progress toward that goal. Read more posts here.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama declared, “We are stronger when America fields a full team.” As we move to leverage the power of a fully represented “Team America,” VA is advancing the cause of our 2.2 million women veterans.
Women veterans are one of the fastest-growing populations of veterans. Now 10%, by 2020, they will constitute over 12% of all veterans.
America depends on the traits veterans embody -- dependability, resourcefulness, diligence, a team focus, and a can-do attitude – to make good on the President’s efforts to re-energize our economy. After serving our country in uniform, women veterans go on to serve our communities and our workplaces as a positive force for America’s strong and growing middle class.
VA’s commitment to women veterans is second-to-none. Our department-wide Women Veterans Program, led by VA’s Center for Women Veterans, is the focal point of our advocacy – the nexus for enhancing access to our services, and the driver of our initiatives. Our work to better serve women veterans includes the following:
- We’ve instituted comprehensive women's primary healthcare programs at our facilities, where data reveal VA care for women is significantly higher in quality than care in the private sector.
- VA has staffed our 151 medical centers and our 56 regional offices with women veterans advocates.
- We’ve delivered unprecedented levels of benefits to women. In FY 2013, compensation benefits were up 9% from FY 2012; education benefits were up 14%; and home loan guaranty benefits were up 28%.
- Last year, our disability claims grant rates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) based on Military Sexual Trauma were near parity with grant rates for other types of PTSD claims.
- Our Women Veterans Hotline (1-855-VA-WOMEN) answers questions about VA services and resources.
- We’ve strategically enhanced our marketing presence in print, social media, and public service announcements. On March 6, 2014, at 2 p.m., VA will host a live Twitter Town Hall, during which VA subject matter experts will take questions and discuss the concerns of women Veterans. We invite you to join us via VA’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Use #WomenVets to submit questions and follow the conversation hosted by @DeptVetAffairs and @VAVetBenefits.
- We’ve accelerated our women's health research agenda across the board. As part of that ramp up, we’ve funded an initiative to build stronger research-clinical partnerships so we can fast-track research advances into direct patient care.
- We’re listening to our clients: our National Training Summits on women veterans issues give women a larger role in determining the services VA provides.
In short, as VA works to serve the surge of women veterans in recent years, we have gained significant ground. But as the nation’s advocate for veterans, we won’t rest until we will serve all of them as well as they have served all of us.
Eric K. Shinseki is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.