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By Peter S. Gaytan
Almost 15 percent of the today’s active-duty troops are women, so the number of female veterans is also growing steadily. Experts estimate that half of female vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are enrolled in VA healthcare. While the armed forces and the VA have made substantial progress in meeting the health care needs of women soldiers and veterans, there is still work to be done.
In field hospitals, there is a lack of women’s health equipment (such as mammogram machines), as well as a lack of medical expertise in women’s health issues. While both the military and VA have added medical services for women, as well as improved training for staff, it is more cost-efficient to outsource some women’s services to the private sector. While most private caregivers are within an hour’s drive of a VA Medical Center, unfortunately that is not always the case. When an outsourced specialist in women’s issues is hours away, it makes getting proper care increasingly difficult. Patty Hayes, the VA’s national director of women’s health, explains that despite the burden of some female veterans having to travel a distance for care, there are no plans to provide obstetrical care at VA hospitals. Most medical centers also do not perform mammograms because they don’t have the radiologists and other staff needed for breast cancer screening.
Recognizing that it must meet the needs of all veterans, regardless of gender, the VA has hired women’s health managers for its hospitals. VA has also worked on training staff to recognize that women who come to the medical centers may well be veterans themselves, not just caregivers of male vets.
To read more about women’s health care initiatives, go to: http://www.womenshealth.va.gov/
Peter S. Gaytan is the author of For Service To Your Country – Updated Edition: The Essential Guide to Getting the Veterans’ Benefits You’ve Earned(Citadel, 2011), available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. He has served as an advocate in securing and protecting the earned benefits of America’s veterans for more than a decade. Gaytan is the Executive Director of the American Legion, the larges veterans service organization in America.