Women leaving the military face significant gaps in service compared to their male counterparts in health care, employment, community reintegration, housing and disability compensation, according to a new report by the Disabled American Veterans.
Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home reveals that the number of women serving in the armed forces is increasing dramatically, with women making up 20 percent of new recruits, 14.5 percent of the 1.4 million service members on active duty and 18 percent of 850,000 reservists. At the same time, they are being put at risk by federal agencies and community service providers that fail to understand that women are affected by military service and deployment differently than men, the report says.
Challenges faced by female veterans in the labor market are exacerbated by higher rates of medical and mental health concerns than their male counterparts. They also are less likely than the general female population to have earned a bachelor’s degree. The effectiveness of the primary program for helping veterans transition to the civilian labor force, the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), cannot be determined, however, because DOD and VA do not collect data on participation, satisfaction and outcomes by gender, the report concluded.
The report also revealed that women veterans are at least twice as likely to be homeless than non-veteran women, a finding compounded by the fact that women veterans are more likely to be single parents with one or more dependent children. VA’s efforts to eliminate homelessness among veterans have been impressive, but safe housing for women veterans has lagged, it states.
The report identifies 27 policy and programmatic changes needed to overhaul the culture and services provided by the federal government and communities, including requiring every VA medical center to hire a gynecologist, creating gender-sensitive mental health programs, developing education and career guidance programs just for women veterans, and establishing a pilot program of structured women transition support groups.
“While the study shows there are still large gaps to fill, it also establishes a clear path forward for elected leaders, policymakers, and public and private entities to ensure women veterans receive the benefits and services they earned and deserve,” said DAV Washington headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine.