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VA also needs to improve health care for women in the military, lawmakers say

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Women make up nearly 20% of the nation’s active duty military and that number keeps growing.

However many of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care services are designed to serve men. Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D) is part of a group of lawmakers from both parties who are calling on Veterans Affairs get to work on improving health care for women.  

Cherissa Jackson with AMVETS said as more women serve in the armed forces, more women need quality health care from Veterans Affairs, including suicide prevention programs.

“They’re feeling hopeless, they are feeling lonely” said Jackson. “They are feeling there is no way out or they feel like the VA is not there for them.”

Spanberger said women have high suicide rates like their male counterparts, but they also have specific female medical concerns.

“We need to make sure the VA is responsive to some of the particular needs female veterans have” said Rep. Spanberger.

In a letter, lawmakers are calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to better serve women. Rep. Spanberger said she wants every VA facility to hire a primary care provider specializing in women’s health, create tracking and support for homeless women veterans and take necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment at VA facilities. Lawmakers also want to make sure VA facilities can provide mammograms and other basic medical services for females.

“We need to make sure they are getting the treatment and the care that is specific to women” Rep. Spanberger said. 

VA officials hope their proposed 2020 budget addresses disparities for females. It includes more than $540 million to strengthen care for women veterans. Supporters said a boost in resources is a positive step.

“By doing that, we feel like they are in support of us.”

Lawmakers want assurance there’s enough money in the VA’s budget for all those who serve to get the health care they need.

More details on VA’s proposed 2020 budget: