IMMEDIATE RELEASE June
YALE RESEARCHER, VETERANS ADVOCATE
TESTIFIES THAT VA SHORTAGES WOMEN VETS
WASHINGTON, D.C.- A prominent
scientist and veteran's advocate testified before Congress today that
the Veteran's Administration (VA) fails on numerous fronts to address
the health needs of women veterans.
Linda Spoonster Schwartz, a
Yale School of Nursing researcher and chair of the VA Advisory Committee
on Women Veterans, criticized the VA's refusal to study the health of
women veterans specifically. The VA contends that "many biological
processes are common to both men and women."
"There is no doubt that
there is a pervasive and disingenuous attitude that programs for women
veterans are 'window dressing,' trivial or optional. We have encountered
these sentiments at every echelon of the Department of Veteran
Affairs," said Schwartz, a retired Air Force major.
Schwartz cited a number of
specific deficiencies in services for women vets, including compensation
for mastectomies, sexual assault counseling and assistance for homeless
women. The VA has refused to offer the same compensation for a
mastectomy that it does for the loss of an extremity or physical sense.
Schwartz spoke in favor of legislation introduced by US
Reps. Lane Evans and Shelley
Berkley that would provide such compensation. "This is another
challenge for the VA system to begin to officially acknowledge that the
physiology of a woman does differ from that of a man and needs to be
considered from a holistic perspective," she said.
While praising the
"sterling effort" the VA has made to provide counseling for
those who have experienced sexual assault and trauma while in the
military, Schwartz decried the fact that the program is scheduled to end
and called upon Congress to establish a permanent program.
Schwartz also called on the VA
to better provide for homeless women veterans. "Women veterans who
are homeless also have needs and problems that vary from those of male
veterans who are homeless. These challenges range from privacy and
childcare to treatment for physical and sexual abuse and prenatal
care," she said. Schwartz said that Congressional funding to
address these special needs is often absorbed by other VA programs, thus
never benefiting the women for whom it was intended.
Several of the concerns that
she raised crossed gender lines. For example, Schwartz discussed the
need for the VA to do more outreach to inform veterans about the
services to which they are entitled. She called for more investigation
into birth defects of children born to mothers or fathers who served in
Schwartz also argued that
reservists and National Guard members who are injured or become ill in
the line of duty should receive the same benefits as they would in
active duty. Reservists and National Guard members, who now compromise
nearly half of the US armed forces, are not entitled to many veterans
benefits if injured while serving. Private insurance, however, does not
cover them because injuries sustained during military service are
considered "an act of war." Schwartz herself was injured
during an aircraft accident as a reservist flight nurse and faced a long
arduous battle to get access to benefits and services.
VVA's point of contact for
additional information is Mokie Porter at (301) 585-4000.
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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's
only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated
solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's
founding principle is "Never again will one generation of veterans