The Department of Veterans Affairs has been wrapped-up in scandal and jumping from one crisis to the next. Amid all these stories, another important issue is getting lost in the tumult: the VA’s commitment to women veterans’ health care.
A recent report by the Associated Press sheds light on the fact that a stronger commitment to caring for our women veterans is needed.
And just as more and more veterans are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more of them are women. Even the head of the VA’s office of women’s health acknowledges that persistent shortcomings remain in caring for the 390,000 female veterans seen last year at VA Medical Centers and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) — despite an investment of more than $1.3 billion since 2008.
Despite this investment, problems abound, which are listed below in more detail. The bottom-line is that the VA is falling behind on care for all of our veterans. And for women in particular, VA Medical Centers and CBOCs have yet to keep pace with the rising numbers.
With more than $1.3 billion spent in the past six years on women’s health, the problem is delivery and execution. The same is true for the veterans enduring egregiously long wait-times. So while the VA is ironing out its other problems, this is also an opportune time to re-evaluate the processes related to how care is delivered to our women veterans.
Among the shortcomings for women’s care:
- Nearly 25% of VA Medical Centers do not have a full-time gynecologist on staff. And 140 of the 920 CBOCs serving rural areas do not have a designated women’s health provider.
- When a CBOC refers veterans to a university or other private medical facility to be screened for breast cancer, more than half the time their mammogram results are not provided to patients within two weeks, as required under VA policy.
- Female veterans are placed on the VA’s Electronic Wait List at a higher rate than male veterans, meaning their wait times are often over 90 days.
- And according to a VA presentation last year, female veterans of child-bearing age were far more likely to be given medications that can cause birth defects than were women being treated through a private HMO.
With their numbers increasing, there is no choice but to put more focus on women veterans and confront these issues head on. Indeed, we need to elevate the level of care for all our veterans, and ensure the men and women who served our country get what they deserve.
Read more on this issue on the AP Report published online in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/22/veterans-affairs-womens-health_n_5519796.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
Brigadier General Carol Ann Fausone (ret.)
General Fausone served her country for 36 years in the US Air Force and Michigan National Guard as a nurse and medical officer. Carol Ann continues serving by “Taking Care of Our American Heroes and their Families” to obtain the benefits they deserve.
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