There’s been a lot of chatter out in the “mediasphere” lately about women’s health care at VA. Being an employee not just of VA, but of the Veterans Health Administration, my ears perk up a bit when I catch wind of such content, and get a bit of a sting when it has less than positive overtones.

Recently, sitting at home, watching Gangster Squad with my wife, because I am romantic that way (Valentine’s Day coming up soon, gentlemen), I experienced both those things. People were dogging on my VA. My VA employees and fellow coworkers. Satire and comedy make for great entertainment, but I couldn’t help but get a bit hot under the collar.

And with that in mind, I remembered some of my Army training, and how Soldiers (Sailors, Airmen, Marines and all uniformed military, I’m sure) are trained to be part of the solution ¬– not part of the problem – lead, follow or get out of the way. I personally believe that our patients are the best in the world. And our employees agree: when you criticize VA, you criticize every employee, and that is not good for Veterans or provider recruitment. So I decided to do some investigating of my own.

I caused quite the stir among my nurse co-workers whom I questioned for this post. They were none too pleased themselves. I actually got the chills reading one of the responses from a VA nurse I talked to, who shared what VA has been doing since 2010 to advance our capabilities in women’s health. Not because someone found us to be short somewhere, but that we have to absorb so much shame and ridicule because we are a government entity.

Did you know that female Veteran VA health care users more than doubled, from 159,000 in 2000 to 390,000 in 2013? Or that VA is the national leader in providing mammograms? Military Sexual Trauma (MST) presents a wholly unique challenge to our ranks, and to help address this, VA has established MST Coordinators to assist Veterans filing disability claims related to MST.

Prosthetics presents a significant issue to our female Veterans, and we’re making progress there too. I recall my experience filming the prosthetics lab in Las Vegas and meeting the chief, himself a Veteran with a device. He showed us the imagery machine that scans an exact replica of an amputee’s “residual limb,” flips it and prints an exact replica. His team and he makes custom devices from scratch. I was amazed and impressed to learn about how we are treating our Veterans and the passion of our employees as they do their work. Just watch his story. And don’t miss another dedicated employee, VA Nurse Riah Takia, who tells us about her experiences of helping to meet the specialized needs of women.

A recent article in The Washington Post quotes Dr. Patricia Hayes, VA’s chief consultant for Women Veterans Health:

“‘It’s not your father’s VA – it really isn’t,’ Hayes said in an interview. She added: ‘We have geared up and are gearing up. But we have a lot of catching up to do.’

“Hayes said agency officials are working hard to re-educate staff and change the male-dominated culture, with campaigns that include posters and videos that say, ‘This is not your father’s VA,’ and pictures of women in combat gear with the slogan, ‘Not every GI is a Joe.’

“She said VA also has opened a women’s call center [Women Veterans Hotline] so staff can be more proactive.”

I appreciate the attention on VA, and any improvement, funding, volunteering or donations will be welcomed by all. What I really appreciate is providers applying to work at VA and being proud to do so!

Good leaders lead from the front. And with the hard work and dedication of our employees, VA will be in that position on women’s health care as well. We have been, are and will continue to make advancements in the field.

At VA, we need quality employees, quality providers, volunteers and support for our Veterans. If you want to talk about VA, learn about VA… spend a few hours volunteering. Or, you can Join VA and work to help us continue to provide solutions to our female Veterans. There’s the salary, the benefits and such. But there is a mission you’ll serve and a goal that you’ll be striving to attain, that the 14th president of the United States, one Abraham Lincoln, established in his second inaugural address. It’s just that, “him who shall have borne the battle,” is a bigger field now.

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5 Comments

  1. MichelleCaldwell June 8, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Start by Empowering & Honoring the 25% of our Military and Over 2 Million Women who have been in combat since 1948.
    Help us to establish a Monument to Women.

    http://www.monumenttowomenveterans.info

  2. Edwina Cain June 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    What you say re improvements in female veterans healthcare is all well and good, but what is actually occurring is quite a different story!!! I get my primary healthcare at the Tomball VA Clinic in Tomball, Texas. However, I get all specialized care at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
    Although the clinic in Tomball has room for improvement in its operation, it has been opened for less than five years, therefore, I don’t expect absolute smooth sailing from it. The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center inv Houston, Texas on the other hand, has been operational for in excess of forty years and therefore SHOULD KNOW proper patient care procedures and practices!!!
    Patient’s Right’s and Responsibility’s are posted throughout the hospital, however, they ARE NOT ADHERED TO!!!!!!! Decisions are arbitrarily made by Associate (acting) Director (as I was told by Supervisor of Respite Care Program) and groups he appoints to suspend veterans assistance programs without explanations and until further notice. These are programs that veterans count upon for assistance and have previously used. The only other option that we are offered is in-house nursing home convalescence which is not always a viable option.
    We as veterans DO have the option to choose where we convalesce at VA expense after a surgical procedure performed at the VA hospital and are released from the hospital. To try to force a veteran into nursing home care is illegal (I should think) and against my rights!!
    So, if you must defend improved healthcare for females, do so for specific sites!! This particular site is caught in a time warp!!!! The administrative personnel only do what pleases them. I include all admin because I could go on with the Prosthetic’s Department, Rehabilitation Medicine, etc., however, I’ll stop now before I get really angry!

    • Corena Gardner June 12, 2016 at 11:50 pm

      Specific sites for 25% of the nation’s Veterans? Kind of life segregation of the females away from the males? I’m sorry your VA facility is not running smoothly but to do what you are suggesting would add billions to the budget for Veterans! New buildings, equipment, personnel. ..It isn’t feasible or needed.

      Besides certain needs. the females Veterans have the same health problems that you do. They need all the same services because they are in the line of fire and in the war zones of two theaters of operation right now! They are also losing limbs, being blown up by ieds and returning with PTSD if they return alive. There are no more front line combat operations as in WWI and WWII. Everyone is in danger in these two areas of opertions.

      Women are also injured in training and stateside don’t forget. After serving they are as eligible for benefits as you are. Possible the answer for you is to work towards improving services and finding out what the problem is at your VA Hospital to find real solutions that help all Veterans and don’t double or triple the cost to our nation’s tax payers. Thank you for your service Sir and I wish you the best in getting your needed health care at the VA in your location.

  3. Carla A Moore June 4, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    I have been a female patient in the VA health care system for over 35 years. I see and an truly thankful for the positive changes that are taking place in the VA health system for women Veterans. I do feel the treatment we received prior to our population be acknowledged has left wounds that have not been addressed. We have been ignored, dismissed and made feel unwelcome for a very long time. I for one have lasting psychical and mental issues due to this neglect. Making things right for women Veterans includes addressing the wrongs that were done. I am thankful for today’s positive changes.

  4. Sharon K Elliott-Jones June 4, 2016 at 11:25 am

    It might be all fine and dandy at your own VA but there are plenty out there that are not. Step out and into another and you may find a world of difference.

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