VA Offers Specialized Assistance for Transitioning Female Service Members
VA Offering Specialized Assistance for Female Service Members Transitioning to Civilian Life
There is a long history of underrepresentation for women in the military. Even with the more recent creation of female-driven support and services, there is still a lack of utilization of those benefits. In collaboration with the Department of Defense, the VA has created a Women’s Health Transition Training (WHTT) program specifically designed to educate transitioning servicewomen on the specialized assistance available to them as veterans.
Congress created the Center for Women Veterans (CWV) in November of 1994 as a way to monitor and coordinate the VA’s administration of health care benefits, services, and programs for women Veterans, as well as to advocate for and recognize contributions of women veterans. The CWV has been directly responsible for overseeing policies, programs and legislation that affect women veterans. Additionally, CWV monitors and coordinates the VA’s delivery of benefits and services for women veterans, and provides resources and information pertinent to women veterans, their families, and their advocates. The VA’s female healthcare system offers such services as infertility treatment, contraceptive services, nutrition, and military sexual trauma related care, among other woman-specific services. Visit the VA’s woman vet website for a full list of what they have to offer.
As of 2020, women make up about 10% of all U.S. veterans – women currently represent about 15% of active duty service members and it’s estimated that this will only continue to rise in the coming years. This means, women will need additional assistance when transitioning to civilian life in the future and have knowledge of what’s being offered to them. Research shows that currently, women only make up about 6% of the VA’s patient population; there is an under-enrollment from these female veterans, which can mainly be attributed to lack of awareness for those eligible. “These women, who may have more immediate or pressing health care needs than male veterans of the same age, likely do not understand they can easily obtain woman-specific services through the VA at no or very little cost.” That’s where WHTT comes in.
The need for a program like WHTT was born out of a 2017 panel of women’s health leaders from the DOD, VA, military services, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services (USUHS) in which they discussed the many challenges facing female service members transitioning to civilian life. The panel created a one-day workshop that would focus on health care resources available to women veterans that would act complementary to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
WHTT would become a voluntary, “interactive, and high-energy course taught by a woman Veteran who uses VA health care and is designed to educate transitioning servicewomen about a number of things, such as:
- the woman-centric culture and infrastructure of VA to better serve women Veterans
- women’s health care services (e.g. maternity care, cancer screenings, whole health, and mental health care services)
- the process and eligibility requirements for enrollment — you don’t have to be disabled to receive health care at the VA
- connecting with other women Veterans through women-specific networks, resources, and programs post-service
- how to find your local VA facility and POCs for additional support
The pilot WHTT program kicked off in 2018 as a partnership between the VA and the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team at five Air Force bases across the U.S. By June of 2019, the Army, Navy, and Marines had participated in the program, and by December of 2019 all services had participated. A number of things were born from this pilot program, including:
- 238% increase in awareness of women’s health services available at VA
- 81% increase in awareness of suicide prevention services available at VA
- 102% increase in awareness of homelessness services available at VA
- 82% increase in how to navigate the VA health care system
- 89% increase in preparedness and awareness of how to start the VA enrollment process.
- 114% increase in enrolled participants who had since separated from the military
- 67% decrease in average time that a new female veteran opted to enroll in female services through the VA
Because of these trends, the “VA and DOD Joint Executive Committee voted to make this program a permanent offering by the VA.”
Normally, there are 100 in-person trainings and 18 virtual trainings offered during a normal workday. However, due to the coronavirus, the remaining training sessions for this year will only be offered online. Sessions will be held twice daily through Dec. 21, 2020. You can register for WHTT virtual training here.