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Latest News

VA News

VA and DoD collaboration offers women’s health transition training

Womens Health Transition

 

Register now for in-person or virtual sessions led by Women Veterans

A new VA and DoD collaboration offers a virtual option for the Women’s Health Transition Training Program. The program provides service women with a deeper understanding of the women’s health services available to them within the VA health care system and how to navigate the VA enrollment process.

This free training is designed for Active Duty service women planning on transitioning to civilian or Reserve/National Guard status within the next calendar year, or women Veterans and current National Guard/Reserve members who have not enrolled into VA healthcare.

The training is led by women Veterans for women currently serving and fellow women Veterans.

Instructor Nik Hall is an experienced health care and business management professional. Her work for Navy Medicine includes 10 years of experience with clinical transformation, pharmacy operations, patient experience, and women’s health. As an OEF combat Veteran, she was the first female in combat operations in Afghanistan in 2002.

Nik, who utilizes VA health care herself, has personally benefited from the course information and enjoys delivering this high-energy and interactive virtual course. She covers the following:

The course offers the opportunity to engage with live training instructors who answer your questions in real-time, a Women Veterans Program Manager from a VA Medical Center and other Servicewomen navigating the transition process.

Virtual courses will be offered:

  • September 17th (1000 CT)
  • September 19th (0900 CT)
  • September 24th (1100 CT)
  • September 26th (0900 CT)
  • October 2nd (1300 CT)
  • October 15th (1400 CT)
  • November 7th (1700 CT)
  • December 2nd (0900 CT)

On-site training will also be offered at some military installations.

Sign up today for the VA/DOD Women’s Health Transition Training Program.

Virtual classes are offered through Adobe Connect. You will have the option to download it automatically when clicking on the link above, or you can install it ahead of time by going to this website: https://helpx.adobe.com/adobe-connect/connect-downloads-updates.html.

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Women Veterans: Talk to your provider about cervical cancer

Cervical Cancer 001

 

One of the most treatable cancers if found early

VA encourages you to talk to your primary care provider about cervical cancer testing because early detection can help save your life.

Cervical cancer was once the number one cause of cancer-related death in women. Due to increased screening, the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States has dropped by more than 50% since the 1970s, according to the American Cancer Society.

Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if found early. A Pap (Papanicolaou) test, also known as a Pap smear, looks for cancer and precancerous cervical cells. This test and screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, which is the cause of most cervical cancers, often leads to early detection. In addition to screening, there is also a vaccination to prevent HPV. It is most effective if administered during childhood or adolescence, but adults can benefit from it too.

Cervical Cancer

These are some of the most helpful questions to ask during your next primary care visit:

  • How often do I need a Pap or HPV test or both?
  • If my test is abnormal, how will I be contacted?
  • Should I receive the HPV vaccine?

Depending on your age and current cervical health, you can now be screened in three- to five-year increments. VA and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new screening guidelines in 2018. You should connect with your primary care provider to better understand the new scheduled recommendations.

For women Veterans between the ages of 21 and 29, VA recommends:

  • A Pap test every three years.

For women Veterans between the ages of 30 and 65, VA recommends one of three options:

  • A Pap test alone every three years.
  • Both the Pap and HPV tests every five years.
  • An HPV test alone every five years.

You can speak to your VA provider about how to schedule a cervical cancer screening, your Pap and/or HPV test at your local VA facility.

To contact a Program Manager at a local VA facility for more information, call 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636). Additionally, you can chat online via real-time messaging or visit www.womenshealth.va.gov.

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“Eat it or starve:” food causes stress for women Veterans

Eat or Starve

 

VA researchers hear about a range of unhealthy eating habits that women developed in the military

The military is no picnic when it comes to consuming food. Eating quickly and at strange hours is a way of life in the armed forces. For many women Veterans, these experiences can affect their eating habits, and relationship with food after their military service is over.

For a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers Dr. Jessica Breland of VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Dr. Shira Maguen of San Francisco VA Health Care System talked with 20 women Veterans about how military service affected their eating habits. They found that many had developed unhealthy patterns such as binging, eating quickly, eating in response to stress and extreme dieting. In many cases, those habits carried over into civilian life.

Military service can change how women eat even after they return to civilian life

Poor eating habits

The Veterans described three military environments that promoted poor eating habits: boot camp, deployment, and on base.

Almost all of the women recalled that in boot camp, they were forced to eat quickly.

“My family asks why I eat so fast, and I say I learned it from the military,” one woman Veteran said. “We were always timed.”

Others ate quickly in order to get second helpings. In addition to eating fast, they also ate a lot. Since they were physically active, they didn’t gain weight. But when they got out of boot camp and continued eating large meals, they gained weight, which then affected their self-esteem.

Deployment changed eating habits even further since there was no set schedule for meals.

“You ate as much as you could before the flies ate your food, or you had to run off and do something and get [to] … the next stressful situation” said one woman Veteran.

On base, meals were less stressful than in boot camp or on deployment, but healthy choices were limited.

“Your options are the mess hall or Burger King and Cinnabon,” said another woman Veteran.

For many women, the need to “make weight”—not exceed maximum military weight limits—was an ongoing struggle. This involved continually monitoring what they ate and being monitored by others. For some, this struggle was tied directly to the stress of being female in the military.

“There is just a whole host of things that we have to deal with that [male service members] don’t have to,” one woman said, “and one of those things is being constantly judged on our appearance. It’s like there is nothing we can do right as women in the military and … that translates into these eating issues when we get home.”

Challenges making weight

Making weight was even more challenging—and critical—after pregnancy.

“They give you nine months to gain the weight [during pregnancy], and if you’re over[weight] when you come back to work in six weeks, it’s career death,” one participant said. “They start writing you up, they start demoting you, but the men don’t have that, you know?”

Some women ate as a way of finding comfort and control in stressful situations. One Navy Veteran said she and a female colleague felt isolated and bullied due to their gender. They used food as a way to feel good and cope.

“When we got in port, we would just hole up in a hotel room, and just buy a whole bunch of just comfort food, candy, cookies, and whatever it was that we wanted to pig out and eat on. So we [were] in a relationship with the food, her and me, which … helped us out a lot.”

Some became trapped in a cycle of overeating and extreme dieting.

“You [could have] the start of a really serious eating disorder that could have killed you and it was reinforced by people saying, ‘Oh my god, look how much weight you are losing,’ like it was a good thing,” one female Veteran said. “Were they going to wait until you were dead before they said, ‘You know, this might not be so healthy’?”

Adapting to civilian life

Some women found it hard to readjust to civilian eating patterns after leaving the service.

“[My family said], ‘We’re not in the military. You have to slow down and back away and think about what you are doing,’” another female Veteran said. “So that was hard … it wasn’t clicking in my head that I was no longer in the military. They didn’t know my norm, and I didn’t know their norm, and we were just clashing all the time.”

Other women reported that they no longer took pleasure in food because years of consuming mediocre military meals had reduced eating to the level of a chore.

“You just eat it or you starve,” as one woman put it.

The researchers caution that their findings may not apply to all women in the military, but only to those with certain risk factors. They hope to do larger-scale research to further explore the issue.

Source

Women Veterans confront intimate partner violence

Women Vets Confront Partner

 

VA Boston psychologist studies connection between domestic violence and traumatic brain injury

One third of women Veterans experience intimate partner violence during their lifetime

Dr. Katherine Iverson, a clinical psychologist, and researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System works with women Veterans who have experienced intimate partner violence, or IPV. Often called domestic violence, IPV occurs when a current or former intimate partner such as a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse harms, threatens to harm or stalks their partner.

Iverson’s basic message to women Veterans who have experienced IPV: “VA can help.”

According to the VA Women’s Health Services Office, one third of women Veterans experience IPV in their lifetime, compared with less than a quarter of civilian women. Researchers are not sure why, says Iverson, but one reason might be that women Veterans simply “have more risk factors” for IPV, including “having parents who have experienced IPV, witnessing violence in the home and being a victim of childhood sexual or physical abuse. We know that people who’ve had these experiences in childhood are more likely to go into the military.”

Plus, a woman Veteran or service member is more likely to partner with or marry another Veteran or service member, who in turn is at greater risk of being violent with their partner.

Iverson’s recent research focuses on women Veterans who experience traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of IPV. “In my clinical work, I found that women are often strangled or choked by intimate partners during their assaults,” she says. “Or they might be badly punched or elbowed to the head, face, or neck, or have their head bashed against the wall.”

She notes that women may be more likely than men to experience severe symptoms from such injuries. In a study of Iraq Veterans with TBI, women reported significantly more severe health problems than men and were much more likely to be diagnosed with depression and PTSD.

In addition to the harms caused by TBI, IPV itself is linked with a range of health issues including stomach trouble, sexual health problems and mental health symptoms. “Women who experience IPV are twice as likely to attempt suicide. They are two to four times more likely to have diagnoses of PTSD and depression and to use alcohol—perhaps as a way of coping with the IPV they experience.”

On top of those challenges, says Iverson, women who have experienced repeated IPV “can be colossally critical of themselves” and tend not to trust their own feeling that something is wrong. “If you’ve been put down enough and told that you are crazy, you can start feeling like that. So I think an important part of what clinicians can do is validate for women that their experiences are legitimate; that they don’t deserve to be treated like that; that it’s not their fault; and that there are programs that can help.”

Iverson says that women Veterans who have experienced IPV, or think they might have, can ask their VA health care provider for help. “If they have a provider that they feel comfortable with, like primary care or mental health provider, we’d encourage them to talk to their provider about it.” Women Veterans can also talk with a VA social worker or ask if their VA facility has an IPV coordinator, “who are really the experts on connecting with community services.”

Iverson notes that since VA is an integrated health care system that offers mental health and social work services along with health care, “we can play a very important role in helping women understand symptoms that they experience, to recognize IPV, to know where to seek help, to get help for their own symptoms so that they can make decisions that are best for themselves and their children.

“Essentially, we focus on enhancing the tremendous strengths and resilience that women Veterans already have.”

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Top VA official honored for contributions to women’s health

DVA Logo 31

 

The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) recognized a senior official from the U.S. Departmentof Veterans Affairs (VA) during a ceremony May 1 in Washington, D.C., for her contributions to improving women’s health research.

The organization presented Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA’s deputy under secretary for Health, for Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks, with its Health Public Service Visionary Award during its annual awards dinner.

“In recent years, VA has focused increasingly on serving the health care needs of women Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Dr. Clancy’s leadership in clinical care and research has been essential to the substantial progress VA has made in this area.”

In her current role, Clancy works to foster collaboration among VA’s researchers, clinicians and the department’s academic affiliates. Under her leadership, VA has strengthened and broadened its scientific research — which now covers a woman’s entire lifespan. These efforts have increased research on primary care and prevention, reproductive health, intimate partner violence, mental health and post-deployment health for women Veterans.

Clancy is an experienced health care executive, having served as director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality from 2003 to 2013.

Currently, 1.9 million living female Veterans make up nearly 10% of the Veteran population.

“As the fastest-growing segment within the U.S. Veteran population, young female Veterans have unique health care needs that must be recognized and addressed,” said Dr. Amy Miller, SWHR president and CEO. “In her many influential roles at VA, Dr. Clancy has enhanced access to and quality of care for women Veterans by helping to identify and remove barriers to their participation and care in VA’s health system.”

Clancy said she is honored to be recognized by SWHR, noting that the organization has helped to elevate awareness of the urgent need for women’s health research.

To learn more about VA research on women’s health, visit www.research.va.gov/topics/womens_health.cfm.

Source

Glyphosate found in pregnant women

GLYPHOSATE

 

Carey Gillam in her book, "White Wash, The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science," writes that "It is undeniable that we've allowed our food, our water, our soil, our very selves to become dangerously doused with chemicals."

Her work focuses on the Monsanto Company. Monsanto gave us DDT, PCB's and Agent Orange. All three products were promoted and defended by Monsanto and U.S. government agencies. All three products were eventually banned because of their damage to human life and the environment. They now offer us a range of weed poison products known as Roundup, with its chief ingredient glyphosate.

In the Northshire, it's used on our lawns and gardens. Perhaps it's used on our town parks and school playgrounds.

In the year 2000, Monsanto introduced glyphosate-tolerant soybean, corn, canola, beet, alfalfa and other crop seeds. These seeds contain the weed poison. The plants that grow from these seeds contain the weed poison. Monsanto acknowledges this and maintains that the levels found in food products are safe. The question is how much residue is found in the breakfast cornflakes our children eat or the corn chips adults eat. We don't know. For the past 20 years the Federal Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have "steadfastly avoided testing for glyphosate residues in the American food supply."

The U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2014 sharply rebuked the FDA for not telling the public of their skipping over glyphosate testing. It further criticizes FDA's capability to do any accurate pesticide testing, "FDA's ability to reliably identify specific commodities that may be at high risk of violating pesticide residue tolerances is limited."

Focusing on pregnant women, fetuses and infants: What do we know? Multiple studies suggest pesticides are harming children's brains and bodies. Research shows that children of pregnant women with pesticides in their urine and blood samples suffer IQ and neurobehavioral development issues as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnoses.

In December of 2016, Phillipe Grandjean, a Harvard professor of environmental health and an expert on environmental epidemiology, co-authored a report for the European Parliamentary Research Service.

The report stated, "Recent insight into the toxic effects of pesticide exposure suggests that early-life exposure is of greatest concern, especially prenatal exposure that may harm brain development. No systematic testing is available since testing for neurotoxicity — especially developmental neurotoxicity-has not consistently been required as part of the (regulatory) registration process."

The report further urges women who are pregnant, who plan to become pregnant, or who are breastfeeding to seek organically grown foods.

A study in Chemical Research in Toxicology reports that glyphosate can be toxic to human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells. It can pass through the placenta.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, Dr. Paul Winchester, the Medical Director of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, began to notice what reseachers call a "cluster" of symptoms among news babies. For two years (2015-2016) he and seven other researchers tested pregnant women and followed them through delivery.

In April of 2017, Dr. Winchester presented his findings at the Children's Environmental Health Conference. The research showed that over 90% of the women had glyphosate in their urine. Women with higher levels of the weed poison were found "to have shorter pregnancies and babies with lower birth weights." These outcomes are believed to translate to long-term health issues.

This is the first study to show that the weed poison glyphosate is in pregnant women. "This is a huge issue", said Dr. Winchester. "Everyone should be concerned about this."

The last word goes to the best-selling author and naturalist Jane Goodall: "How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons.

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VA celebrates Women’s Health Week with events at medical centers

DVA Logo 33

 

In celebration of National Women’s Health Week, May 12-18, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country will host events to support women Veterans and connect them with VA’s health care services.

“VA is serving nearly a half million women Veterans and we want to take care of even more,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Events like these get them through the doors, so they meet VA health providers and learn firsthand about the comprehensive services and quality care VA provides to women who have served.”

Women are among the fastest growing Veteran demographics, accounting for more than 30% of the increase in Veterans who served between 2014 and 2018. The number of women using VA health services has tripled since 2000, growing from about 160,000 to nearly 500,000 today. VA offers a wide range of primary care and specialty services for women Veterans, such as health screenings, preconception counseling, maternity care, menopausal support and more.

VA Medical Centers with dedicated women’s health clinics will celebrate National Women’s Health Week by hosting either an open house or outreach events. Veterans attending these events can speak with health providers about the broad range of services offered at their medical centers and hear from experts on topics such as maternity care and child safe homes. Tours of the clinics and educational materials will be available.

VA is seeking broad public participation and encourages Veteran Service Organization members to participate. News media are welcome to cover these events. To learn about events at facilities in communities around the country, visit the local VAMC website or contact the public affairs officer directly.

VA encourages women Veterans not currently using VA health care services to enroll and use the benefits they have earned. Call the Women Veteran Call Center for information at 855-VA-Women (855-829-6636) for information or visit womenshealth.va.gov.

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Meet the women helping VA work for women Veterans

VA Work for Women

 

Anyone who thinks the Department of Veterans Affairs is an old boys’ club should meet some of the women running it.

I’m one of them.

The VA has a long history of both serving women and putting them in a position to lead, and we’re better positioned than ever to help our women warriors when they return home.

Women have played an important role here since before my great grandfather fought in World War I, when Veterans could get benefits from the VA’s predecessor, the Bureau of War Risk Insurance. By the time my grandfather was in World War II, we were the Veterans Administration, and more than 10 percent of our employees were women.

By the mid-70s, women made up more than half of our workforce. Today, under Secretary Robert Wilkie, women are running major components of the VA, which shows his commitment to serving women Veterans as they transition and seek care.

  • Dr. Melissa Glynn heads up our Office of Enterprise Integration and is in charge of our modernization effort that will see the VA undergo the most dramatic evolution it’s ever seen.
  • Cheryl Mason is chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and leads a team of more than 1,000 judges, attorneys and staff that makes decisions on appeals brought by Veterans and their families.
  • Dr. Lynda Davis is our chief Veterans experience officer and works to make sure we’re on track to becoming the top customer service organization in the federal government.
  • Karen Brazell is executive director of our Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, and oversees procurement and risk management for the VA, which is the largest integrated health care system in the country.
  • Dr. Tamara Bonzanto is assistant secretary for our Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, a new office that’s aimed at building transparency and public trust throughout the VA.
  • Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd is executive director of our Center for Women Veterans, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and strives to make sure women can get the care and respect they deserve when they walk through our doors.

We rely on these women and thousands of others across the VA to make sure we’re in a position to help a growing population of women Veterans. Over the last five years, women have accounted for 30 percent of the increase in Veterans that seek out the VA for medical care.

That’s a challenge, but it’s one we’re meeting. We’re providing more medical services for women than ever before, including comprehensive primary care, gynecology, maternity care and mental health services.

Studies show that women Veterans are more likely to receive breast cancer and cervical cancer screening than women using private sector health care.

We’re taking special care to focus on women who are at risk of suicide. Preventing suicide among all Veterans is one of our top priorities, but we’re working hard to understand how the stress of a duty tour affects women differently and funding several studies that will shape treatment options.

We’ve also been working for several years now to change the culture and prevent all forms of sexual harassment in our medical centers. Those efforts are yielding results — we’re training our staff to intervene when they see harassment, and we are pushing to make sure women are comfortable coming to our clinics to get the care they’ve earned.

How do we know we’re making progress? Women have noticed the improvement and are voting with their feet.

The number of women choosing VA health care has tripled since 2000, when we served about 160,000 women Veterans. More than 750,000 women are benefitting from VA health care or other benefits.

That number is only expected to grow. Women are expected to make up about 10 percent of all U.S. Veterans today, but as women swell our military’s ranks, we’ll be seeing even more women at the VA in the years ahead.

Surveys show women like the changes they’re seeing. A recent study said 84 percent of women Veterans trust us with their medical care and are satisfied with the overall VA experience.

The VA is succeeding with women because women are having more input than ever before into how the department is run.

But don’t just take it from me — stop in at one of the open houses we’ll be hosting this year at VA clinics around the country to celebrate Women’s Health Week.

Come and meet the women who are taking care of our nation’s heroes.

nd to all women who have served this nation so honorably, thank you for your service and we hope you choose VA.

Source

Labrador Vet 'stunned' by Veterans Affairs decision keeping her out of N.S. care facility

Joan Robertson

 

Joan Robertson, 96, told she can only live in N.L. Veterans' facility

A military Veteran living in Labrador City says she's been told by Veterans Affairs that she can't be admitted to a Veterans' retirement home close to family in Nova Scotia and can only live in a home in St. John's.

Joan Robertson, 96, served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War, the "part of the army in which Queen Elizabeth served."

After the war, Robertson says she and her husband moved to Labrador City, where she's lived for more than 50 years.

She now lives in an apartment in her son's home, but because her son often travels for work and her health is on the decline, Robertson says she'd like to be in Halifax.

"I am very, very shaky, my hands are likely to throw things … and my back is very, very painful, I have to use a walking stick to get around," she said.

"I know this is not going to get any better, and I just wanted to be put on a list to go into the Camp Hill facility in Halifax, where I have my family and I have friends, and I have been going there for four months, every year, for the last 20 years."

But because she has lived and paid taxes in Newfoundland and Labrador, Robertson said she's been told by Veterans Affairs Canada that she can only move into the Caribou Memorial Veteran's Pavilion in St. John's, where she has no family and friends nearby.

"You might as well drop me in the middle of a desert island, because I do not know the island of Newfoundland," she said.

'This is disgraceful'

Robertson said she was shocked by the decision.

"I was kind of stunned, I thought, just a minute — and I'm talking about modern Veterans too now — they fought and served under one flag, a Canadian flag," she said.

"They did not fight or serve under provinces ... and I thought, this is disgraceful."

Robertson's daughter Jennifer Kennedy, who now lives in British Columbia, agrees.

"You fight for Canada, she's a citizen of Canada. It shouldn't matter where you ask to live, you should have that right," she said.

"You're treated like you're a number — you will live in St. John's and that's it. That's a ridiculous statement to make."

Kennedy said her brother has been calling Veterans Affairs to try and arrange a space for their mother in Halifax, but was told it wasn't possible, despite beds being available at the facility.

"My brother, after many conversations with Ottawa and everywhere else, finally got a call from St. John's and was told nope, she had to stay, and then got a follow-up letter … under no condition could she get into Nova Scotia, she had to go to St. John's," she said.

Veterans Affairs 'committed' to Veterans

In a statement to CBC News, Veterans Affairs said that under the terms of the Privacy Act, the department is "unable to comment on individual circumstances."

The statement read to be placed in long term care, Veterans must apply for support, be assessed by a healthcare professional as needing round the clock care and meet "service eligibility criteria."

Alex Wellstead, press secretary to the minister of Veterans Affairs, said the department is "committed to ensuring Veterans get the benefits and services they need and we're always available to offer assistance."

Robertson said since speaking with CBC, she was contacted by Veterans Affairs on Thursday looking for information. She said she was told she would need a medical assessment and could be considered for the Camp Hill facility in Halifax.

In the meantime, Robertson said she's planning to live with her son in Nova Scotia for the time being with hopes that she'll be considered for a space at Camp Hill after living in the province for a few months.

Source

New text feature available through VA’s Women Veterans Call Center

Women Vet Call Center

 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) added a text messaging feature to the Women Veterans Call Center on April 23, providing another convenient way for women to seek information about VA benefits, health care and available resources.

Women Veterans can now text 855-829-6636 to receive answers and guidance about VA services.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for women Veterans to get answers about eligibility requirements, benefits, services and more,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “By offering new methods of communication, such as texting, we can reach more women Veterans and support their health care needs more quickly.”

The Women Veterans Call Center is staffed by trained, compassionate female VA employees, who can provide and link callers to available resources, such as health care, benefits and cemetery information via phone, chat and now text. The new texting feature aligns this service with other VA call centers that provide information and assistance to Veterans who are in crisis, at risk for suicide and becoming homeless.

VA works to meet the unique requirements of women, while offering privacy, dignity and sensitivity to gender-specific needs. Since April 2013, the call center has received nearly 83,000 inbound calls and has initiated almost 1.3 million outbound calls. As the number of women Veterans continues to grow, VA is expanding its outreach to ensure they receive enrollment and benefit information through means that are user-friendly and responsive.

Women are among the fastest-growing Veteran demographics, accounting for more than 30% of the increase in Veterans who served between 2014 and 2018. The number of women using VA health care services has tripled since 2000, growing from about 160,000 to over 500,000 today. This continued growth underscores VA’s commitment to enhancing communication and outreach to the growing population of women Veterans.

For more information about the Women Veterans Call Center, visit Women Veterans Health.

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