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September/October Issue

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / Letters / President's Message / VVAF Report / Government Relations / Ask The Parliamentarian / Veterans Benefits Update / Membership Affairs Committee Report / Legislators View / ETABO Committee Report / PTSD Substance Abuse Comittee Report / TAPS / Region 7 Report / AVVA Report / SHAD/Project 112 Task Force Report / Veterans Against Drugs Task Force Report / VetsConnect Report / Homeless Veterans Task Force Report / Women Veterans Committee Report / Arts of War / Book Review / Membership Notes / Chapter of The Year / Locator / Reunions

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Women Veterans COMMITTEE REPORT

BY MARSHA FOUR, CHAIR

The VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans has a long and proud history of providing a biennial report of recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Vietnam Veterans of America can take pride and credit for its work and contribution to the establishment of this committee. Over the years, women veterans from our organization have served on this committee, with several serving as its chairs. The committee was established by law to report to the Secretary and to Congress and is subject to reauthorization by Congress.

These two mandatory processes have lapsed, and the VA does not feel it is in its scope or desire to ask for congressional renewal. We are concerned that, if not mandated by Congress, this vital reporting could eventually be lost. Several years ago, in fact, it was placed in jeopardy. VVA is diligently working on reporting requirement legislation.

A hearing was held June 27 on Sexual Assault and Violence Against Women in the Military and at the Academies. The hearing was convened before the Subcommittee on National Security of the U.S. House of Representatives. Although not permitted to testify, VVA submitted a statement.

This issue must be vigorously addressed on all fronts. The results of sexual assault and violence while in the military ultimately affect forever many of the veterans of this country. This cannot be pushed under the rug or minimized. Programs in place by the Department of Defense must be continuously monitored and evaluated. The vehicle to perform this oversight must be put in place now. It should be activated with reporting to the executive staff of the Pentagon, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and Congress. Oversight of the ability of the VA to respond to the needs of these veterans also must continue.

The mind-set and culture of the military must refocus on its responsibility to all the troops regarding sexual trauma and its criminal consequences. There must be a total commitment on the part of DoD to insure the personal safety of those in the military.

One topic of discussion is the position of Women Veteran Coordinators in the Veterans Benefits Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. We are examining the degree of involvement, oversight, advocacy, policy, and process that has been developed for the Women Veterans Program Managers in the Veterans Health Administration and its Women Health Program Office. These two entities operate, in many ways, at opposite ends of the spectrum. It is time that more attention and commitment be shown within VBA to its Women Veterans Coordinator Program.

I challenge you to investigate the position of your local Women Veterans Coordinators at your VA Regional Office. Speak with them. Find out what their duties are. How much time are they allocating to their position? Are they able to function within their understanding of their position? Ask them if they are totally aware of the duties of their position. Ask them what they need. What would they like to have in the way of support? What assistance would they like to receive from VBA? What national structure and directives would help them fulfill their position as the Women Veterans Coordinator? If you do ask these questions, please forward the responses to me via e-mail, mfour@vva.org I would like the opportunity to move them forward.

I remind the State Women Veterans Committee chairs to check with their State Presidents to obtain the packet of information compiled by the National Women Veterans Committee. It is distributed each time the presidents meet with the National Board of Directors.

I encourage you to e-mail information to me that you think may be appropriate for our committee web page.

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