Report Confirms Services for Female Veterans Fall Short
“The DAV report closely tracks an Associated Press review in June that found serious shortcomings in how the VA cares for female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them of child-bearing age.
The AP review found that nearly one in four VA hospitals does not have a full-time gynecologist on staff, and that 140 of the 920 community-based clinics serving veterans in rural areas do not have a designated women’s health provider, despite a goal that all clinics have one.
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 doctor, the AP found.
The VA cared for about 390,000 female veterans last year at its hospitals and clinics — far fewer than the 5.3 million male veterans who used the VA system in fiscal year 2013. But the number of women receiving care at VA has more than doubled since 2000. The tens of thousands of predominantly young female veterans returning home have dramatically changed the VA’s patient load, and the system has yet to fully catch up.
While the number of male veterans is expected to decline by 2020, the number of female veterans is expected to grow dramatically, to 11 percent of the veteran population, the report said.
Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the VA’s acting undersecretary for health, said the VA will consider all of the report’s 27 recommendations on topics including health care, education, job training and sexual assault.
The report will serve “as our road map for improvements,” Clancy told a gathering of female veterans and their supporters at the Capitol on Wednesday. The VA is working to ensure that all clinics and hospitals have a women’s health provider onsite, she said, adding the agency makes referrals to private providers in cases where none is available at the VA.”