1) Rapid Population Growth, Demographic Changes: The number of women Veterans is growing rapidly, with increasing demands for health care as well as an influx of younger Veterans. VA is equally committed to and equipped to serve the health care needs of older women Veterans—the largest subpopulation of female VA health care users.
Today, women comprise approximately:
Since 2000, the number of female Veterans using VA health care has more than doubled, from nearly 160,000 (FY00) to more than 337,000 (FY11). This growth has outpaced that of the male Veteran population.
Among women Veterans returning from the current conflicts, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND):
55% of female OEF/OIF/OND Veterans have received VA health care. Of this group, 89% have used VA health care services more than once; 52.4% have used VA health care 11 or more times.
Average age of VA users in FY09 was:
In FY09, more than half of women Veteran VHA patients had some level of disability that was caused or exacerbated by their military service (service-connected disability status). About a quarter of the women had a service-connected disability rating of 50% or higher.
VA is committed to serving the needs of older women Veterans.
· Women aged 65 and older make up 14% of women VA health care users.
VA is stepping up to meet the needs of a growing women Veteran population and enhancing primary care to meet their needs. This is a major undertaking for VA.
2) Leadership in Women’s Health: VA strives to be a national leader in the provision of health care for women, thereby raising the standard of care for all women.
3) Comprehensive Primary Care: Women Veterans deserve health care provided with privacy, safety, dignity, and sensitivity to gender-specific needs. VA understands the needs of women Veterans and is best equipped to meet their needs. VA is evolving toward a comprehensive primary care model of delivery for women.
Comprehensive primary care for women Veterans ensures that any woman Veteran seeking VA care will receive complete primary care from one primary care provider at one site, including:
The emphasis goes further:
Implementing comprehensive primary care is part of the Women’s Health Transformation Initiative, one of VA’s T21 Transformation Initiatives created by Secretary Shinseki to transform VA into a 21st Century organization. Other initiatives focus on:
Patient Centered Care
Through Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs), VA is implementing patient-centered care. PACTs provide accessible, coordinated, comprehensive care, and encourage patients to have an active role in their health care. Women’s comprehensive health care — complete primary care from one designated Women’s Health Primary Care Provider at one site — serves as a model for VA’s PACT initiative.
Women’s Health Education
VA is recruiting and training providers interested and proficient in women’s health. Developed by the Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group, a 2.5-day national mini-residency program has been delivered across the country since 2008. More than 1,200 Primary Care providers have been educated in Basic and Advanced Women’s Health Care through this Mini-Residency training. This is a flagship education model for VA.
VA Mental Health Services for Women
VA has responded to the growing number of women Veterans by developing a wide range of mental health services to meet their unique needs. Available services include psychological assessment and evaluation, outpatient individual and group psychotherapy, acute inpatient care and residential-based psychosocial rehabilitation. Specialty services target problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder, substance use problems, depression, and homelessness.
VA also has outpatient, inpatient, and residential specialty services for Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma (MST), and provides free care for all mental and physical health conditions related to a Veteran’s experiences of MST. Veterans may be able to receive this free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA care. For MST specialty services, many of VA’s standard requirements are waived. For example, a VA service-connected disability rating is not required. Neither is the Veteran required to have reported the incident when it happened, nor to have other documentation that it occurred.
To accommodate female Veterans who do not feel comfortable in mixed-gender treatment settings, many facilities throughout VA have women-only programs or have established specialized women’s treatment teams. Nationally, VA also has over a dozen women-only residential and inpatient programs.
Standards for Mental Health Services for Women
VA policy states:
Available Services for Women Veterans Who Are Homeless
VA offers an array of special programs and initiatives specifically designed to help homeless Veterans live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. VA’s continuum of care includes services for special populations, such as women and families, who may be at greater risk for homelessness. Programs incorporate outreach and prevention, temporary and transitional housing, and permanent housing with supportive services.
Veterans can also contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans (1-877-424-3838) or the VA Homeless Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center for information or assistance with homeless issues. For more information about VA Homeless programs and services, visit the web at: http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/index.asp
4) Culture change: Women Veterans Health Care is working to enhance the language, practice and culture of the VA to be more inclusive of women Veterans. A key piece of this is outreach.
Women Veterans Call Center
Women Veterans Health Care has launched an unprecedented effort to contact women Veterans nationwide in order to enhance its health care services. Representatives at VA’s Health Resource Center (HRC) are calling women Veterans to increase their knowledge of VA services and benefits, to ask them to share their experiences with VA, and to suggest potential enhancements that will further VA’s mission to provide the best care anywhere.
The HRC aims to reach every woman Veteran and expects to generate 40,000 calls per quarter once fully operational. Veterans who are contacted and referred to VHA or VBA responders will receive a 30 day follow up call from the contact representative to ensure their needs are met.
The goals of the call center are to:
Other ongoing outreach initiatives include:
from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Previously Cleared Fact Sheet Updated 2/2012