Women Veterans Task Force Draft Plan Released



May 15, 2012             


Women Veterans Task Force Draft Plan Released

VA Seeks Public Comment on Strategies


WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs is releasing for public comment a draft of its strategic report to address key issues facing women Veterans. The plan outlines steps for improvements to care and services for women Veterans that are sustainable, accountable and a part of the department’s culture and operations.


“Expanding care and services to women Veterans is too important to limit ourselves solely to the views within the department, so we are seeking feedback from all stakeholders, most importantly women Veterans themselves,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The VA must be visionary and agile enough to anticipate and adjust not only to the coming increase in women Veterans, but also to the complexity and longevity of treatment needs.”


Shinseki formed a task force to develop an action plan to address women Veterans’ issues.  Since then, the group has conducted a broad survey of department experts to identify those issues and organize them by priority.  The draft report is an interim step prior to VA finalizing its overall plan.


The report comes at an important juncture in VA’s history that demands a review of the quality, quantity, and types of services and programs it provides to women Veterans.  The number of women Veterans using VA has increased 83 percent in the past decade, from about 160,000 to over 292,000 between fiscal years 2000 and 2009, compared with a 50 percent increase in men. 


Women are now the fastest growing cohort within the Veteran community. In 2011, about 1.8 million or 8 percent of the 22.2 million Veterans were women. The male Veteran population is projected to decrease from 20.2 million men in 2010 to 16.7 million by 2020. In contrast, the number of women Veterans will increase from 1.8 million in 2011 to 2 million in 2020, at which time women will make up 10.7 percent of the total Veteran population.


VA is training providers in basic and advanced topics in women’s health through mini-residencies, and over 1200 providers have currently received training. Comprehensive women’s health care can be provided within three different models of care, including comprehensive women’s clinics; separate, but shared, space women’s clinics; or integrated primary care clinics.  All of these clinic models ensure that women receive all of their primary health care (prevention, medical, and routine gynecologic care) by a single primary care provider. A network of medical directors and program managers who coordinate care for women Veterans now encompasses all 153 medical centers in the VA Health Care System.


The public notice and instructions for how to submit comments will be posted at www.regulations.gov.  The draft written report will be open for comment for 30 days, and responders will have a number of options to provide both electronic and written feedback.  Readers will also be able to participate in a public discussion board on the Internet at: http://vawomenvetstratplan.uservoice.com/forums/159415-general.


To view the report without making recommendations, please visit VA’s website at:  http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/Draft_2012_Women-Veterans_StrategicPlan.pdf.


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Research Roundtable Caps VA Celebration of Women’s History Month

Research Roundtable Caps VA Celebration of Women’s History Month

WASHINGTON — Improving the health and health care of women Veterans is a high priority within the Department of Veterans Affairs, said a panel of leading researchers on March 27.


“VA is committed to serving women Veterans and it is our privilege to do so,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “We are honored to sponsor research that supports the outstanding care our women Veterans have earned and deserve.”


VA’s research commitment is multidisciplinary, covering the areas of biomedical, clinical, health services, and rehabilitation.  To meet the needs of a growing, diverse demographic that spans all generations of women Veterans — from an aging population of WWII Veterans to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan—the pace of research activity in recent years has greatly accelerated.


“From building an extensive research network that supports top notch investigators to providing a strong foundation of knowledge for quality care, VA is addressing the diverse health care needs of this fastest growing segment of the Veteran population,” said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA chief research and development officer, who was the opening speaker.


Between 2004 and 2008, more research on the health of women Veterans was published than in the previous 25 years combined.  Today, VA supports a significant amount of research on a wide variety of health issues faced by women.  In fiscal year 2011, the agency funded 60 studies for a total investment of more than $12 million.


VA women Veteran’s health research focuses on:

  • Returning combat women Veterans – gender differences with regard to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),  post-deployment behaviors, and reintegration;
  • Understanding barriers and improving access to VA health care for women Veterans;
  • Long-term health outcomes of women who served during the Vietnam era;
  • Expanding mental health research including PTSD, substance abuse, and sexual trauma; and
  • Basic research (biomedical) on breast cancer including hormones, regulation, genetic factors, as well as autoimmune diseases

To bolster support for investigators conducting women’s health services research, as well as recruitment and inclusion of women Veterans in a wider array of studies, VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) launched the Women’s Health Research Network (WHRN).  The WHRN includes two partnered components:  the Women’s Health Research Consortium providing training and mentorship to researchers focusing on women’s health research, and the Women’s Health Practice-based Research Network supporting clinical research networks that test VA-based women’s health-related interventions and studies requiring recruitment of women Veterans at multiple sites. The former is headed by Elizabeth Yano, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.; the latter by Dr. Susan Frayne, M.P.H.

“Excellence in health care begins with excellence in research” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA’s under secretary for health. “VA research has put together a solid infrastructure that supports quality health care for women Veterans.”

Joining Kupersmith to discuss the ways VA research improves the health of women Veterans were Dr. Sally Haskell, acting director of Comprehensive Women’s Health for the Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group, and three leading researchers:  Elizabeth Yano, co-director of the VA Health Services Research and Development Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System; Susan Frayne, associate director for development and staff physician at the Women’s Health Center of Excellence, VA Palo Alto Healthcare System;  and Dr. Donna Washington, M.P.H., program area lead, Women’s Health and Equity Strategic Program, HSR&D Center of Excellence for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior and staff physician at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

The media roundtable culminated a month of activities sponsored by VA to recognize Women’s History Month.  It is the third in a series of media roundtables sponsored by VA’s Office of Research and Development.  For more information about other roundtables, see www.research.va.gov/media_roundtable.  For more information on VA Research, visit www.research.va.gov.


VA Celebrates Women’s History Month


Women Veterans: Make Your Own History

VA Celebrates Women’s History Month

WASHINGTON (March 8, 2012) – The Department of Veterans Affairs joins the Nation in observing Women’s History Month in March by honoring women Veterans for their significant historical contributions and encouraging them to take advantage of the VA benefits they’ve earned.

“VA honors women Veterans of all eras for their courage and sacrifice,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “These Veterans, and those who currently serve in uniform, are part of a proud history of women defending our Nation.  Today, women Veterans are recognized for more varied roles and operations, but women have always been critical to our military.”

Women serve in every branch of the military, representing 15 percent of today’s active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces.  They serve as gunners, police, pilots, truck drivers and fuel suppliers.  By 2020, VA estimates women Veterans will constitute 10 percent of the Veteran population.

VA recently launched a “Stories of Service” video series depicting the role of women in the military, available at www.womenshealth.va.gov.  In these three- to five-minute video vignettes, women Veterans spanning various eras and service branches talk about their experiences in the military and how they made VA benefits work for them.

VA offers women Veterans employment services, education benefits, compensation for service-connected illnesses or injuries, and home loan guarantees, as well as high-quality, gender-specific health care. As part of an aggressive initiative to improve health care services for women Veterans, VA established a women Veteran call center to reach out to women Veterans to let them know about services available to them.

“We want women Veterans to take advantage of VA benefits and services to improve their future,” said Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans.

“VA’s mission is to serve Veterans.  When it comes to health care, VA understands women Veterans,” said Dr. Patricia Hayes, chief consultant for VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group. “We can provide women Veterans with health care that will keep them strong and healthy in all stages of their lives.”

For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, please call 1-800-827-1000 or visit: www.va.gov/womenvet and www.womenshealth.va.gov.