Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Woman by woman, the VA is changing its culture

February 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Women have served in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War. But it wasn’t until 1988 that the VA began offering medical and mental health services to female veterans. And Gina Painter, who manages a clinic dedicated to female veterans at the VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City, said the legacy of that exclusion is still being felt today.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” she said. “A lot of people think we’re only here for combat veterans. We get women all the time who say, ‘I didn’t served in a combat role. I just drove a truck.’ They don’t see themselves as qualifying for VA services. Sometimes they don’t think of themselves as veterans at all.”

As the number of female veterans swells (women now make up about 15 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces) Painter and those she works with are trying to change the perception of the VA and what it offers. On Thursday, the Salt Lake women’s clinic hosted an open house offering free cardiac health screening to all women who have served in the military to try to entice women to investigate the VA and its services.

One major obstacle: Veterans often believe the VA only treats patients for service-connected disabilities.

Although being injured while serving in the military is one of the most common ways veterans qualify for care, the VA doesn’t limit its services to military-related health conditions.

In fact, Painter noted with conspicuous pride, one of the growing services her clinic offers is maternity care. “Seventy-five percent of our female patients are under 40 years old,” she said. “Their health care needs are obviously going to be different,” than more traditional patients — older males.

That means maternity care, gynecological services and breast cancer screening. And in a world in which VA officials estimate — conservatively, according to some studies — that one in five women veterans have been the victims of some form of sexual trauma, it means offering a wide range of psychological services geared specifically to women. “We’re having to change the culture of the VA, a lot,” Painter said.

The women’s clinic serves about 1,800 women, up several hundred patients since Painter arrived in 2008.

“We’re trying to be a one-stop shop,” said the center’s medical director, Adriana Rojas. “For us, it’s about the totality of care.”

Read the Entire Article Here.


One Response to “Woman by woman, the VA is changing its culture”
  1. Sherrie Harris says:

    I am a veteran of the U.S. Army and I planned on retiring from the military. I’m a soldier at heart, even after being out for 10 years. I was the victim of domestic violence by another soldier in my unit and my chain of command knew about the abuse but refused to help me. I asked for help, a change of units to get away from my abuser because he worked in our supply office in my unit. My 1st Sergeant had already informed me when I arrived at the unit in Nov of 2000 that women didn’t belong in the army. When I asked for a change of unit, he told me that I wasn’t going anywhere. When my abuser tried to kill me several times for leaving him, I was looked at as the bad seed. When my abuser broke into my apartment in broad daylight because I left him again, doing $4000 worth of damage to my personal/military belongings and my apartment,nothing was done to this man. I was given counseling statements for failing to adapt to military life and I had been in 4 years. I had been a good soldier. I was proud to be a soldier. When I gave my 1st Sergeant an 11 page hand-written account of the abuser that I had suffered and was still at that point suffering, he turned around and gave it to my abuser. I would have left my abuser but I couldn’t get away from him. We were in the same unit, we seen each other on a daily basis and I was not safe. I had an EPO on him that I was advised not to get by my 1st Sergeant because it would make him look bad. I was going to mental health because that was the only release I could get and my counselor told me that the quickest way to get away from my abuser would be to get out on a personality disorder. It would be an honorable discharge and take less than 3 months. Thats what we did. I was in family advocacy for 3 months before my 1st SGT even found out. When I got my last LES, I was gonna get as far away from my abuser as possible, only to see a “NO PAY DUE” and a bill for over $5000 because my chain of command decided to recoupe ALL of the reenlistment bonus that I got for reenlisting, even the other half that I had not recieved. I was devistated and had no choice but to move with my abuser because I had no money to get away from him and my family couldn’t afford to help me. That was Aug 01 and I ended up moving to Tyler, TX with him and finally got completely away from him on Valentines Day of 02. I have been looking over my shoulder to make sure that he isn’t there to hurt me. I still have nightmares, difficulty sleeping, I worry that someone is going to break into my apartment and get me. I have weapons everywhere to defend myself, just incase that does happen. I have been fighting the VA for PTSD since 04 or 05 and have been denied 4 or 5 times now. I am so happy to see that there is a program specifically for women to deal with the sexual assaults and the domestic violence. All too often women go without asking for help for these things and it takes a toll on their lives. I’ve been seeing VA phychiatrists since 02 and I still struggle everyday. I now help veterans find jobs and it is such a rewarding job. Thank you for all you do.

    Sherrie Harris
    Disabled Veteran, U.S. Army

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