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january/february 2007

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Women Veterans COMMITTEE REPORT

BY MARSHA FOUR, CHAIR
The activities of the committee and the chair are posted on VVA’s web site. The committee, in conjunction with the chair of the VVA Homeless Veterans Task Force, had the opportunity to present ideas, issues, and concerns about homeless women veterans at the field meeting of the VA Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans, Subcommittee on Women Veterans. VVA HVTF chair Sandy Miller is the vice chair of this VA committee and chair of its subcommittee.

I was asked by Women’s Policy, Inc., to provide a presentation on women veterans at its annual breakfast briefing at the Cannon House Office Building in early December. It was a fairly large gathering and included a significant number of Senate and House congressional staff from both parties

The committee invites speakers to its meetings in an effort to stay abreast of current trends and information. Linda Piquet, Woman Veteran Coordinator from the Veterans Benefits Administration in Washington, was a presenter at our October meeting. She spoke about claims-related collateral duties, military sexual trauma (MST), PTSD, proving the claim, WVC assistance with local contacts, and the existence of no tracking sub-codes in VBA for MST PTSD claims.

This committee helped with an oversight hearing statement to Rep. Christopher Shays (R.-Conn.) related to MST. We stated that one of our concerns is that the report of the Pentagon’s Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies fulfilled the requirements of P.L. 108-136. However, it is more than one year later, and the Secretary of Defense has yet to select members for a second committee for sexual assault in the armed forces, as directed by Congress.

The charge of this second committee, as we understand it, is, in part, one of oversight: to review the implementation of newly established protocols and procedures in the armed forces. These include the restrictive reporting of incidents of sexual assault; the effectiveness, or lack of same, of established programs; the assurance that those involved with these programs will receive appropriate education and training; and site visits to ensure compliance in the establishment and implementation of all facets of the programs in concordance with the law. Of extreme importance is the assurance that victim-advocate positions are filled with properly trained advocates, and the verification that all service members are aware of their rights to restricted or unrestricted reporting of sexual assaults.

Recently it was reported that Rep. Shays has asked GAO to look at how the military decides whether to use administrative hearings or courts martial to resolve abuse claims and that he questioned why there had been a delay in appointing members to the DoD Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services.

This committee also continues to work with the PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee in advocating the increased need for trained clinical staff at VHA and in the Vet Centers to address combat-related PTSD by women veterans. It is the hope of this committee that the VA will develop a formal process to listen to and evaluate the input and concerns of the new population of women veterans. Playing catch-up in a system as massive as the VA’s will cause undue repercussions for veterans already struggling with catch-up.

Moving forward, the committee will begin its road to Convention 2007, revisiting its resolutions and planning for its biennial breakfast. Please send your thoughts on resolutions to the committee via its VVA web page.

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