VA Steps Up On Women's Health Care

Kathryn Smith | Politico | May 1, 2013

The nation’s imagination may be captured by the expanding combat role of women in the U.S. military. But for the Department of Veterans Affairs, there’s a more pragmatic challenge.

As more women serve in the armed forces, how does a massive health care system that for decades was focused primarily on men make sure women get the health services they need — whether it’s a routine Pap smear or mental health care after a sexual assault?

From 2001 to 2010, the number of women receiving health care from the VA more than doubled, said Patty Hayes, chief consultant for women’s health services for the VA. She said the VA expects it to double again in the next five years: Currently, 15 percent of active-duty service members are women, and they make up 18 percent of the National Guard and Reserve.

“VA is here for the women veterans, VA understands the needs of women veterans, and we’ve changed the culture of the VA to not simply be a male-oriented place,” Hayes said.