Underserving Female Veterans: Military Connection

Underserving Female Veterans: Military Connection

By Debbie Gregory.

While official policy mandates that women do not serve in combat roles in the U.S. military, the women who serve still suffer from physical and psychological injury.

Among them is retired Army Sgt. Brenda Reed, who has pleaded with VA officials for “a foot that fits, a female foot,” only to be told repeatedly that the agency doesn’t carry that kind of customized prosthetic. So every morning, for more than two years, she has had the infuriating chore of screwing on what she calls her “man foot.”

After her left leg was amputated in 2013, Reed was given the prosthesis by the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the artificial limb was so bulky and ill-fitting that it kept falling off in public.

Reed has tried to make the best of the situation, putting bright red press-on nails on the wide “man” toes.

The take-away from this is that it is vital for the VA adapt to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of female veterans.

The VA health-care system has catered almost exclusively to men, and has been slow to recognize that the 2.3 million female veterans represent the fastest-growing population turning to the agency.

VA hospitals and clinics don’t offer prenatal care or delivery. As a matter of fact, numerous VA facilities don’t have full-time gynecologistsFor even some of the most basic female wellness services, such as mammograms, there are facilities that have to outsource the services and refer the women elsewhere.

There is also a severe shortage of VA mental health therapists who are women, an especially pressing problem for female veterans trying to come to terms with sexual assaults suffered in the military.

While some VA hospitals have premier women’s clinics, others offer women little privacy, forcing them to share rooms with men and separating them at most with a curtain.

Even recently, as VA Secretary Robert McDonald has acknowledged, some hospitals didn’t have separate restrooms for women.