Sister in Arms - The Challenge and Opportunities
As a Veteran you automatically share a forever bond with your brothers and sisters, but as a woman Veteran that title is often less recognized. It is not uncommon for a woman Veteran to call Veteran Affairs (VA) and to be asked for her spouse’s social security number or to be asked by fellow service members at events if the retired rank they reflected on their name tag belongs to them or their spouse.
How can women Veterans hold on to their identities after exiting the service, especially when some of our fellow counterparts don’t identify them as Veterans?
According to The Department of Labor (DOL), 1 in every 11 Veterans is a woman, but only one in every 63 women is a Veteran.
As you see from the graphics above, Veteran women are a minority in today’s population and this number goes down even more when we look at women under 35 years old, where only 1 in 96 are Veterans. Women Veterans only make up about 10% of the United States Veteran’s population.
One woman Veteran was quoted saying “My male peers came home from our deployment to be recognized as heroes. I spent a year in combat to come home to a nation debating whether or not women should be in combat." I think we can fairly say it is challenging to be a woman in a male-driven occupation and even more challenging to have society acknowledge their service afterward.
Women Veterans and Resources
Women Veterans are also less likely to use Veteran resources, programs or utilize the VA altogether. The VA has reported that women Veterans underutilize VA care, largely due to a lack of knowledge about VA benefits and what is available to them. In May 2010, Congress signed a public law requiring the VA to examine potential barriers to women Veteran’s accessing and utilizing VA health care services.
There are also Women Veteran Coordinators (WVCs) located in every regional office who act as the primary point of contact for women Veterans. WVCs provide specific informaiton and comprehensive assistance to women Veterans, their dependents, and beneficiaries concerning VA benefits and related non-VA benefits.
What can I do about it?
One way you can support female Veterans and ensure clarity is simply by asking things like “Have you ever served in the military”? The worst that will happen is the person will say no. If faced with a situation where there are both female and male counterparts together and you are unsure, simply ask, “Are either of you Veterans” or “Are both of you Veterans?”
Hopefully, over time, the barriers women Veterans are facing in our society will lessen. One way for women Veterans to help is by using the services available and bringing awareness to the issues they are facing as women Veterans. The only way to be heard is to speak!
For more information on services and resources please call the number below.
All the representatives at the Women Veterans Call Center are women, and many are Veterans themselves.
Career Assistance for Women Veterans
If you need help finding a job, better job, or career, please call Still Serving Veterans at (866) 778-4645 and ask for a Veteran Employment Specialist. All of the Still Serving Veterans employment counselors are Veterans and many are women.
Reflection by Krista Kiser (US ArmyVeteran), Virtual Veteran Employment Services Counselor, firstname.lastname@example.org