By Debbie Gregory.
Women are seeing expanding roles in all branches of the U.S. Military. Recently, the Army announced that 33,000 combat positions would be made available for female soldiers beginning in April. According to the VA, female Veterans account for approximately 10% of the Veteran population, and is expected to double in the next few decades. With the growing population of female officers and enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, the U.S. military has been actively restructuring its organizational composition, and rethinking its stances on policy in order to accommodate its modern, dual-gendered fighting force.
While the military is making strides towards gender equality among its ranks, the Veteran community is still trying to catch up. Veteran resources, including the VA, have a long history of providing service to a community that has historically consisted primarily of men. But even with women becoming a larger part of the Veteran population, Veteran resources are not always designed for or made readily available to female Veterans.
Female Veterans from the Desert Storm and the Post-9/11 eras are using their VA healthcare benefits more than women from other eras. Today’s female Veterans have among the highest percentages of VA health services utilization rates. Female Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have had the highest use of mental health care benefits by population percentage.
Still, there are stories about Veterans benefits and organizations that female Veterans are having a harder time utilizing than their male comrades. There are even stories of Veterans organizations sending membership info to the husbands of female Veterans!
With women making up 10% of the entire Veteran population, that means that are well over 2 million female Veterans today. The VA has vowed to end homelessness among Veterans. The population of homeless Veterans is estimated to be between 50,000 and 70,000, with female Veterans accounting for about 8%, or between 4,000 and 5,600 women.