Women comprise approximately 10% of the overall U.S. Veteran population, and they are projected to comprise 15% of the US Veteran population by 2035 (National Center for Veterans and Statistics [NCVS], 2014). For the most recent projections, visit VetPOP.
Women Veterans are the fastest growing segment of eligible VA healthcare users. Over 50% of women Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have accessed VA healthcare. However, women between the ages of 45-64 represent the largest cohort of current users.
Today's women Veterans are younger: the average age of women Veterans is decreasing, as more young women volunteer for active duty. The largest cohort of women Veterans are those women who served in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Women Veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to combat. Many of these women have served in direct combat roles.
VHA Women Veterans Healthcare produces a host of outreach materials offering background on women's health. These materials include brochures, videos, health outreach campaigns, and research publications and reports.
The VA Women’s Health Transition Training is a course for service women with specific women’s health information that will aid the transition to civilian life. The goal of the program is that participants leave the course feeling empowered to proactively manage their health care and to be comforted by their new support system at VA who can guide them through the military transition process and help them navigate personal health and wellness for the rest of their lives.
You can also find some articles and factsheets about Women Veterans, on the VA Mental Health website.
Women are the fastest growing group within the Veteran population. Increased understanding of the unique needs of women Veterans can positively impact treatment planning and delivery. Below is some important information that should be considered when working with women Veterans.
In FY 2014, the five most common mental health diagnoses among women Veteran VA healthcare users were depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, serious mental illness and substance use disorders.
About 1 in 4 women have told their VA healthcare provider that they experienced sexual trauma in the military.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred in the military. It includes any sexual activity where someone is involved against his or her will.
Sexual assault is more likely to result in symptoms of PTSD than are most other types of trauma, including combat, for both men and women. MST specifically is associated with PTSD, depression, and other mental and physical health problems.
All treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is free. Veterans may be able to receive this free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA care.
Compared to civilian women, women Veterans have been shown to have higher rates of completed suicides.
Women Veterans have higher rates of homelessness, higher divorce rates, and a higher risk for family violence than Civilian women.
VHA Services for Women
In addition to the extensive medical services available to women Veterans (for more information view the FAQs page), VA offers a full continuum of mental health services for women Veterans. VA policy requires that mental health services be provided in a manner that recognizes that gender-specific issues can be important components of care. All VA facilities must ensure that outpatient and residential programs have environments that can accommodate and support women with safety, privacy, dignity, and respect. Women's-only programs are available for Veterans who would benefit from treatment in single-gender environments. Specific offerings vary from facility to facility, based on local demand and resources. Every Veterans Health Administration facility has a wide range of mental health outpatient services for women, including formal psychological assessment and evaluation, psychiatry, and individual and group psychotherapy.
Services available to Women Veterans include:
Mental Health Services
Outpatient specialty services that target problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression, recovery from military sexual trauma and homelessness.
Psychiatric inpatient treatment to address acute mental health needs such as psychiatric emergencies and stabilization.
Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Programs (MH RRTP) which address goals of rehabilitation, recovery, health maintenance, improved quality of life, and community reintegration. Veterans can also receive treatment for medical conditions, mental health issues, and addictive disorders through these programs.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) services
The VA provides free, confidential counseling and treatment to male and female Veterans for mental and physical health conditions related to experiences of MST. Veterans may be eligible to receive this free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA care. Veterans do not need to have reported the incident when it happened or have other documentation that it occurred.
Information is also available online at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp
Telephone care available for women Veterans
For enrolled women Veterans, a VA health care professional is available by phone at each VA Medical Center to answer questions and advise on health concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact your local VA Medical Center and ask for the telephone care number.
Women Veterans Program Managers
At each VA Medical Center nationwide, a Women Veterans Program Manager is designated to assist women Veterans. She can help coordinate all the services you may need, from primary care to medical services to Mental Health and Sexual Abuse Counseling. Use the program locater to find your nearest women Veteran's program, and when you call, ask for the "Women Veterans Program Manager".
Vet Center Services for Women
Vet Centers Brochure, Serving Women Who Served: Located in the community, Vet Centers stand ready to help Veterans and their families with readjustment counseling and outreach services. Services include individual and group counseling, military sexual trauma-related counseling marital and family counseling, medical and benefits referrals, and employment counseling.
Women Veterans Healthcare addresses the healthcare needs of women Veterans and works to ensure that timely, equitable, high-quality, comprehensive healthcare services are provided in a sensitive and safe environment at VA health facilities nationwide.
In November 1994, Public Law 103-446 established the Center for Women Veterans to monitor and coordinate VA's administration of healthcare and benefits services and programs for women Veterans. The Center serves as an advocate for a cultural transformation (both within VA and in the general public) in recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military, and in raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect. The Director, Center for Women Veterans, acts as the primary advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on all matters related to policies, legislation, programs, issues, and initiatives affecting women Veterans.
Make the Connection provides resources and videos about women Veterans' experiences in the military. The site has video clips with the recovery stories of women who have served in the military.
PsychArmor, a national non-profit organization, provides free online education for providers including an online course focused on "Military Women."