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Female Veterans Face Special Challenges

March 5, 2014



Although a man is the first image that comes to minds of many people when they hear the word “veteran,” women make up nearly 16 percent of active-duty personnel in the United States Army alone. More than 200,000 women, including dozens who have reached the rank of admiral or general, serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Women also comprise approximately 2.7 percent of front-line troops, and the existing population of female veterans stands at about 2 million.




Yet, when military women return home, they may encounter challenges unknown to their male counterparts, thus making adjustment to civilian life significantly more difficult. Many of these women have grown accustomed to exercising extensive responsibility in life-and-death matters. Back at home, they often find themselves thrust back into roles centered on household chores and family caretaking, which is generally not the case with their male peers. Some female vets have even stated that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) staff members have questioned their status and assumed they were military spouses rather than the primary service members in their families.

Existing health care support services in VA centers may be inadequate to address the needs of female veterans, a growing number of whom are in their prime childbearing years and may find it difficult to obtain services for their unique health concerns. Additionally, some military women carry the heavy emotional burden of posttraumatic stress disorder, sometimes associated with sexual assault during their tours of duty. Women veterans from the age of 18 to their mid-30s are three times more likely than their civilian counterparts to die as a result of suicide.

The VA’s website at www.womenshealth.va.gov offers links to emerging health care resources available to female veterans. The website also provides information on the VA’s outreach programs being designed specifically to address the needs of this underserved population.

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