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Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans (CWV)
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Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans (CWV)

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  1. Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans (CWV) Briefing for: 83rd National Convention of the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) and the 78th National Convention of the LA FRA “Supporting Women Veterans: Issues and Initiatives” Irene Trowell-Harris, R.N., Ed.D. Director, Center for Women Veterans September 17, 2010

  2. Congressional Mandate Our Mission Our Role Women Veterans Demographics Key Women Veterans Challenges VA Benefits and Services Comprehensive Primary Care Models What Women Veterans Tell Us They Need and Want Joint Coordination and Collaboration Outreach How Women Veterans Can Obtain Local Assistance VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans 2008 National Summit on Women Veterans Issues White House Council on Women and Girls Study on Vietnam-Era Women Veterans and Others National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study National Survey of Veterans Recent Legislation Current Issues Recent Key Events Upcoming Key Events Summary-Where We Are Going How to Contact the Center Overview

  3. Congressional Mandate November 1994, Public Law 103-446 required VA to create The Center for Women Veterans to monitor and coordinate VA programs for women

  4. Our Mission • Monitor and coordinate VA’s administration of health care and benefits services, and programs for women Veterans. • Serve 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. • Raise awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect.

  5. Our Role • Collaborate and coordinate with VA’s three Administrations (VHA, VBA, NCA), and Staff Offices’ on their delivery of benefits and services, and aggressively liaison with other Federal agencies: GAO, DoD (DACOWITS, Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services), DOL (Women’s Bureau, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service), HHS (Office of Women’s Health, Indian Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and HUD), state, local, and other external partners (VSOs, faith-based and community organizations), as well as the Director serving as VA representative on White House Council on Women and Girls. • Serve as a resource center and information clearinghouse, and perform joint outreach to improve women Veterans’ awareness of VA services, benefits and eligibility criteria.

  6. Our Role (continued) • Educate VA staff on women Veterans contributions – Center staff members have membership on or attend all major Department-wide workgroups, task forces, and committees, and joint federal collaborative committees. • Recommend policy and legislative proposals to the Secretary. • Coordinate meetings of the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, to include an annual site visit to VA field facilities (health care facilities, regional offices, national cemeteries, domiciliaries, transitional housing). • Coordinate the development, distribution, and processing of the ACWV reports.

  7. Women Veterans Demographics • One of the fastest growing Veterans subpopulation. • Of the 23.4 million Veterans, over 1.8 million women Veterans; 7.7 percent of Veterans population. • Five percent of all Veterans who use VA health care services are women. • Nearly 300,000 women Veterans used VHA health care in FY 2009. • Utilization expected to increase to 10 percent by 2020.

  8. Women Veterans Demographics • Women represent 15 percent of active-duty military members, 15.1 percent of National Guard and 17.7 Reserves Forces (WIMSA data from DoD as of 9/30/09). • 20 percent of new military recruits are women. According to Stars & Strips (25 Jan 10), 8 percent of female troops are mothers. • Women represent over 220,000 of the 1.8 million troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

  9. Key Women Veterans Challenges • Many women Veterans do not self identify as Veterans. • Many are not aware of and do not apply for VA’s benefits and services. • Women Veterans underutilize VHA health services.(Of more than 1.8 million women Veterans, nearly 300,000 women Veterans used VHA health care in FY 2009.) • In some areas, access to VA’s gender-specific care may be limited. • Disparities in health care. • Outreach to women Veterans in rural areas.

  10. VA Benefits and Services • VA offers a full continuum of comprehensive medical services including: • Health promotion and disease prevention. • Primary care, acute medical/surgical, telephone, emergency, education, vocational rehabilitation. • Substance abuse treatment, mental health, domiciliary, homeless, rehabilitation and long term care. • Women's gender-specific health care, such as hormone replacement therapy, breast and gynecological care, maternity and limited infertility (excluding in-vitro fertilization).

  11. VA Benefits and Services (continued) • Other VA benefits of interest to women Veterans include: • Health Care and compensation for certain birth defects experienced by children of women Vietnam Veterans. • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) for the loss or loss of use of specific organs or extremities, to include hysterectomy and loss of a percentage of tissue from a single breast, or both breasts due to mastectomy, or radiation treatment. • Military Sexual Trauma (MST) counseling and treatment, even without filing a service-connection claim for disability.

  12. Comprehensive Primary Care Models • Three potential models of care delivery that will: • Better meet the needs of women Veterans. • Decrease fragmentation of care. • Improve continuity of care. • The models are flexible: • Model 1: General primary care clinic. • Model 2: Separate, but shared space. • Model 3: women’s health center. • Understand the population served to tailor the model of primary care delivery to each site. Source: Dr. Patricia Hayes, VHA Women’s Veterans Health, ACWV Meeting, March 30, 2010.

  13. What Women Veterans Tell us They Need and Want • Recognition and respect. • Employment. • Suitable housing. • Access to and receipt of high quality health care. • Childcare options. • Opportunities for social interaction. • Want to make a difference.

  14. Joint Coordination and Collaboration • Active participation in joint initiatives and workgroups: • White House Council on Women and Girls. • Congressional roundtable discussions. • Federal and military agencies (DoD[DACOWITS, SAPRO] DOL, DOJ, HHS, etc.). • Veterans service organizations. • State conferences (in support of State women Veterans coordinators). • County and community events. • Faith-based and neighborhood partnerships. • Policy and legislative groups (such as Women’s Policy, Inc.). • Many other women and minority groups.

  15. Outreach • Outreach is an important education tool to connect women Veterans and to demonstrate to them that VA values their military contributions. Outreach needs to portray and target women Veterans with images, messages and branding in the media. • In March, the Center in collaboration with VA administrations initiated the Her Story campaign. The campaign was held in conjunction with commencement of Women’s History Month (theme: “Writing Women Back into History.”)

  16. Outreach • Goal of Her Story campaign is to encourage VACO and VA field locations to sponsor facility events that would highlight the service of women Veterans and VA’s women Veterans employees. • The Center for Women Veterans (CWV) will highlight (weekly) women Veteran employees and (quarterly) highlight a VA facility on its website ( that demonstrates creativity, historical bearing and local flare in telling the many contributions of women Veteran and women Veteran employees. • Intent is for these events and the recognition to extend beyond Women’s History Month. Her Story will culminate with other commemorations, such as Women’s Equality Day and Veterans Day.

  17. How Women Veterans Can Obtain Local Assistance • Full-time women Veterans program managers at every VA healthcare facility; Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group (formerly Women Veterans Health Program Office): • Women Veterans coordinator at every VA regional office: • Homeless Veterans coordinators: • Minority Veterans program coordinator at every VA healthcare facility, regional office, and national cemetery: • OEF/OIF and mental health coordinators: and

  18. How Women Veterans Can Obtain Assistance • VA National Homeless Veterans Call Center 1-877 424-3838 or 1-877 4AID-VET, • Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) • VHA plans to utilize the OIF/OEF Call Center to reach out to Women Veterans • National Cemetery Administration “webpage outreach to Women and Minority Veterans.” Website:

  19. Other Resources for Women Veterans • National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators(State Department of Veterans Affairs/Governor’s Office) • Women In Military Service For America (WIMSA) • Women’s Policy, Inc. • DoD Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Assault

  20. VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans (ACWV) • Established by PL 98-160 in 1983; charter renewed every 2 years. • Purpose is to provide advice to the Secretary, through Director of Center for Women Veterans, on the needs of women Veterans (1.8 million). • Currently 12 Members (diverse group of women and men, representing different military branches, and multiple eras to include 2 OEF/OIF Veterans). • Ex-officio and advisor members, from VHA, VBA, NCA, as well as Departments of Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services, provide expertise. • Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris serves as the Designated Federal Officer (DFO). • The ACWV meets three times annually-- twice in Washington, DC, and once at a site visit in the field—and produces a biennial Congressionally mandated report to Secretary. ACWV Site visit July 27-30, 2010 at the DC VAMC. Committee’s next meeting scheduled for October 26-28, 2010, in Washington, DC.

  21. VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans (ACWV) – (continued) • Key issues from 2010 Advisory Committee reportinclude: • Health Care • Training • Women Veterans Program Managers • Women Veterans Coordinators • Rural Health • Outreach • Committee offers rationales for each recommendation. • Report submitted to the Secretary August 2010 and VA Administrations crafted responses to recommendations. • Report, to include VA’s response, will be submitted to Congress September 2010.

  22. 2008 National Summit on Women Veterans’ Issues • Held June 20-22, 2008, Westin Washington DC City Center Hotel to examine issues and recommendations from the 2004 Summit, review VA’s progress on these issues, and provide information on current issues. • Over 400 attendees participated, to include subject matter experts, women Veterans, women Veterans advocates, Congresswoman Susan Davis, and others. • The Summit included breakout sessions addressing issues impacting women Veterans, a town hall meeting, Health Expo, and showing of the Lioness documentary (as well as meeting the Directors and Soldiers from the film). • Hearing on July 16, 2009 – issue raised for a more frequent summit on women Veterans – currently held every 4 years. In process of planning summit for late 2011.

  23. White House Council on Women and Girls • Established by Presidential Executive Order(March 11, 2009) to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy. • VA’s contribution includes reviewing its programs for women Veterans and policies affecting VA’s female employees. • Priority Issues: • Economic security • Work family balance • Violence against women • Health care • Education • All agency reports posted to the Council’s Web site:

  24. Study on Vietnam-Era Women Veterans • On November 18, 2009, Secretary, Eric K. Shinseki, announced VA's launching of a comprehensive study of women Veterans who served in the military during the Vietnam War. • About 250,000 women Veterans served in the military during the Vietnam War and about 7,000 served in theater or near Vietnam.  • Purposes of the study include: • Evaluate the long-term mental and physical health effects in women who served in the military during the Vietnam Era (July 4, 1965 - March 28, 1973). • Assess the prevalence of PTSD, other mental and physical health conditions and disability for women Vietnam Veterans. • Compare Women identified as serving in Vietnam, near Vietnam (in Asia during the Vietnam War), and in the U.S. during the Vietnam War to explore the relationship between PTSD and other conditions, and the Vietnam deployment experience. • Examine Vietnam women Veterans’ current health care needs.

  25. Study on Vietnam-Era Women Veterans (Continued) • Survey will include 10,000 women Veterans and will take 4 years. • Initial start up phases began March 22, 2010 which included organizing names and identifying potential participants. • Mail survey should be disseminated later this year. • VA is currently developing a brochure to provide more information about the study. • For more information on the study, please contact Dr. Tracey Serpi, by phone at (410) 642-2411, extension 6122, or by email at

  26. National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study • Contracted with Research Triangle Institute in NC, mandated by Public Law 98-160, report date November 7, 1988. • Addressed PTSD and other psychological problems in readjusting to civilian life. • Some findings: • Majority made successful re-entry to civilian life. • Prevalence of PTSD: 15.2 percent in Vietnam theater male Veterans and 8.5 percent in women Veterans who served. • Strong relationship between PTSD and other postwar readjustment problems. • Interviews with spouses show that PTSD has a substantially negative impact on Veterans, their spouses, children and others living with these Veterans.

  27. National Survey of Veterans • National Survey of Veterans, Active Duty Service Members, Activated National Guard and Reserve Members and Family Members and Survivors (NSV). • Will collect important health care, benefits, employment, and demographic information that VA will use to inform policy decisions and improve benefits. • Participants will be able to select a preferred survey method: through U.S. mail, telephone or a password-protected Internet address.  • VA expects approximately 10,000 Veterans to complete the full-length survey.  • In addition to assessing awareness levels,the survey results will fulfill a Congressional requirement established in PL 108-454. VA has informed Congress the results of the study will be available by December 2010.

  28. Recent Legislation S. 1963 – P.L. 111-163The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 • Provide family caregivers with training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend. • Reach out to rural Veterans. • Authorizes VA to provide health care to a newborn child of qualifying women Veterans for up to 7 days. • Requires VA to train its mental health providers in the treatment of military sexual trauma. • Authorized VA to implement pilot programs to provide child care to women Veterans receiving medical care, and to provide readjustment services to women Veterans. • Enhance services for homeless Veterans. • Increase focus on researchfor women Veterans.

  29. Current Issues • VA is reviewing the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to establish a method to identify and track claims involving personal assault trauma. • VA is addressing action to implement Congressional legislation regarding authorization for VA to furnish care to a newborn child of a woman Veteran receiving VA maternity care. Thomas congressional legislative website: • VA has made progress regarding VBA’s outreach efforts to inform women Veterans of their entitlement to a Special Monthly Compensation.

  30. Current Issues (continued) • Revised VBA policy on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), claims, July 13, 2010 VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity . • VA briefed the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the status of VA’s response to recommendations made in GAO’s report on VA's Provision of Health Care Services to Women Veterans, published March 2010, website: 

  31. Recent Key Events • Women Veterans Health Services Research Conference, July 14-16, 2010, Washington, DC. • Women’s Veterans Forum, July 27-28 , 2010, Washington, DC. • Advisory Committee on Women Veterans Site Visit to VA Medical Center, DC, July 27-30, 2010. • Participated in over 12 major women Veterans outreach efforts the past two months.

  32. Upcoming Key Events • Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) Briefing: “Legacy of Service: Supporting Women Veterans” on September 15-16, at VA Central Office (VACO), Washington, DC. • BPW’s Summit: Director will participate in the Business and Professional Women’s inaugural summit on October 21, Washington, DC. • DoD/VA Senior Military Forum: (date TBD), VACO, Washington, DC. • VSO and state outreach: CWV leadership to speak at six VSO and state conferences on women Veterans issues over the next 2 months: Milwaukee, Denver, Ft. Sill, Les Cruces, Sacramento, and Washington, DC.

  33. Upcoming Key Events • Military outreach effort: annual AMSUS (Society of the Federal Health Agencies) meeting, October 31 to November 4 in Phoenix, AZ . VA, Public Health Service, Red Cross , all military services and components including National Guard, Reserves, Coast Guard will participate. • ACWV: next meeting scheduled for October 26-28, in Washington, DC. • Department of Defense Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS): meeting scheduled for October 14-15, Doubletree Hotel, Arlington, VA. Director serves as Designated Federal Officer. • Veterans Day Event: Director will provide remarks during a Veterans Day Event at the WW II Memorial in Washington, DC on November 11. The special keynote speaker will be General Dunwoody. • 2011 National Summit on Women Veterans’ Issues: Planning for the National Summit on Women Veterans Issues for late 2011 is underway.

  34. Summary - Where We Are Going • Enhancing joint outreach efforts – a Secretarial priority. • Connecting women Veterans with knowledge of VA benefits and services. • Promoting recognition of women Veterans’ service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military. “Her Story” campaign kick-off in March during Women’s History Month. • Collaborating with VHA/VBA on personal assault tracking system. • Collaboration with White House Interagency Council on Women and Girls to share best practices and cross-cutting initiatives.

  35. Summary- Where We Are Going • Redefining Primary Care Delivery for Women Veterans. • Making complete primary care available from one primary care provider at one site. • Ensuring primary care providers available to meet all needs, including acute and chronic illness, gender-specific, preventive, and mental health. • Increasing focus on quality-of-care issues and comprehensive longitudinal care for women Veterans. • Raising the level of care delivered to women Veterans within the primary care setting. • Promoting notion that gender-specific care is primary care.

  36. Summary- Where We Are Going • VA working to meet the challenging needs of today’s women Veterans. • Ensuring that VA is ready to meet the demand of an increasing women Veterans population. (VHA estimates that women Veterans’ utilization of health care system will double by 2020.) • VHA considering the feasibility of making child care options available to prevent barriers to care for Veterans. • VBA enhancing its training for WVCs to improve quality of service and outreach for women Veterans. • Working with internal and external partners to facilitate a coordinated approach in addressing women Veterans’ issues.

  37. Summary - Where We Are Going • Educate internal and external stakeholders of VA’s amended motto, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” - by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans. • Ensure that momentum is Veteran-centric, results driven, and forward looking.

  38. How to Contact the Center • Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris, Director • Dr. Betty Moseley Brown, Associate Director • Desiree Long, Senior Program Analyst • Shannon Middleton, Program Analyst • Michelle Terry, Program Support Assistant Address: Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans (00W) Washington, DC 20420 Phone: 202-461-6193 Fax: 202-273-7092 Email: