WASHINGTON -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The American Legion has issued its report on the quality of health care for women veterans at 15 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers across the country.
Key findings of the Legion’s report include the fact that many former women servicemembers do not identify themselves as veterans, many VA medical centers lack long-term health care plans for women veterans, and VA facilities often have no inpatient or residential mental health programs for women veterans.
“We found one case in which a woman veteran in Colorado had to fly to Coatesville, Pa., just to receive her mental-health care,” said Verna Jones, director of the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA & R) Division. “Many women who have served in uniform may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma or depression. VA will be treating many more women veterans in the future, and it needs to make access to mental-health services for women one of its top priorities.”
The “2013 Task Force Report on Women Veterans Health Care,” released to the public on Sept. 17, is based on site visits by the Legion’s System Worth Saving (SWS) Task Force to VA facilities in Buffalo, N.Y.; Augusta, Maine; Fargo, N.D.; Chicago; Tampa, Fla., Erie and Coatesville, Pa.; Dublin, Ga.; Salem, Va.; Las Vegas; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; San Antonio; Texas; Madison, Wis.; Spokane, Wash.; and St. Cloud, Minn.
During these visits, SWS task force members and American Legion field service representatives interviewed each facility’s leadership and staff on the delivery of health care for women veterans.
The report’s objectives were to understand what perceptions and barriers prevent women veterans from enrolling in VA health care, determine what challenges women veterans face with their health care, and provide recommendations that VA can take to improve access to health care for women veterans.
Challenges and recommendations from the Legion’s report include:
Dr. Robert Petzel, VA’s under secretary for health, and senior staff of the Veterans Health Administration were briefed on the report Sept. 17 by staff members from the Legion’s VA & R Division. “Dr. Petzel agreed to evaluate further several of the report’s recommendations,” said Jacob Gadd, the division’s deputy director for health. “He has requested a separate briefing to evaluate our recommendation of providing mental-health inpatient programs for women veterans at all 21 of VA’s Veteran Integrated Service Networks.”
Gadd said that Petzel thanked The American Legion and the SWS program for its candid feedback and evaluation of VA’s health services for women veterans.
The American Legion’s SWS program, created in 2003, is the organization’s primary health-care evaluation tool for assessing the quality and timeliness of VA health care. On Sept. 11, the SWS Task Force delivered copies of the report to members of Congress, VA officials, American Legion leadership and its members.