Shinseki: VA Task Force Improves Care of Women Vets

WASHINGTON — The new­ly formed VA Task Force on Women Vet­er­ans will go a long way in address­ing key ben­e­fits gaps to female vet­er­ans, accord­ing to Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­se­ki.

While sup­port for women vet­er­ans has improved, “it has not been enough,” Shin­se­ki said dur­ing the 2011 Nation­al Train­ing Sum­mit on Women Vet­er­ans held here on July 16. 

The task force’s “near-term mis­sion,” he said, is to devel­op — in coor­di­na­tion with VA’s Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee on Women Vet­er­ans, and in con­junc­tion with the Defense Depart­ment — a com­pre­hen­sive VA action plan that will focus on key issues fac­ing women vet­er­ans and the spe­cif­ic actions need­ed to resolve them. 

Those issues include obstet­ric and gyne­co­log­i­cal care, child­care, mil­i­tary sex­u­al trau­ma, home­less­ness, aging and end-of-life issues, among oth­ers, the sec­re­tary said. 

A draft of the plan is due to Shin­se­ki on Jan. 1 and “will set our course for the next four years in every­thing we do, from plan­ning to pro­gram­ming, to bud­get­ing, to edu­ca­tion and train­ing,” he said. 

The action plan will update and inform VA’s approach to women’s issues with­in its health care, ben­e­fits, and ceme­tery admin­is­tra­tions, as well as the Women’s Advi­so­ry Report to Con­gress, due next July, the sec­re­tary said. 

“Oth­er changes are in the pipeline, such as our pilot pro­gram to pro­vide child care ser­vices,” he said. 

Begin­ning this sum­mer, Shin­se­ki said, three new drop-in child care pilot pro­grams for women vet­er­ans with VA appoint­ments will open in North­port, N.Y., Buf­fa­lo, N.Y., and Taco­ma, Wash. 

Bat­tle­field changes, such as increas­ing­ly blurred front lines, has increased VA’s atten­tion on women vet­er­ans, Shin­se­ki said. 

Last month, a 20-year-old Army mil­i­tary police­woman, Spc. Devin Sny­der, became the 28th female ser­vice mem­ber to die in Afghanistan when her con­voy was attacked on a high­way in east­ern Lagh­man province, Shin­se­ki said. 

“Wars, with no clear front lines, put sol­diers — all sol­diers- at risk as nev­er before, blur­ring the bound­aries between com­bat and oth­er than com­bat roles,” he said. 

In recent years, VA has devel­oped women’s pri­ma­ry care pro­grams at their health care facil­i­ties across the nation, and has hired pro­gram man­agers and coor­di­na­tors to man­age care for women vet­er­ans, the sec­re­tary said. 

The depart­ment also has accel­er­at­ed its women’s health research in bio­med­ical, clin­i­cal sci­ences, reha­bil­i­ta­tion, and health ser­vices, he said. 

Most recent­ly, Shin­se­ki said, the VA launched a women vet­er­ans call-in cen­ter to direct­ly solic­it input into ways the depart­ment can improve its services. 

“I want women vet­er­ans and women serv­ing in uni­form … to see and know that VA is com­mit­ted to ful­fill­ing [their] needs,” he said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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