A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

April 2000/May 2000

Women Veterans Committee Report

A History of Accomplishment

By Marsha Four, Chair

Vietnam Veterans of America is an organization whose members work for the care and benefit of veterans. Some of our members have been around for a long time; others are newcomers to the arena. Not all of our members know or remember the achievements of the organization or of its specific committees.

Most veterans and veteran advocates aren't aware that much of our efforts are spent on insuring veteran rights and benefits for all veterans, not just for those of the Vietnam era. For this reason, the Women Veterans Committee created a membership development flier that briefly describes our history, accomplishments, purpose, and goals. As a leader in moving the agenda of women veterans, the proactive approach of Vietnam Veterans of America benefits all women who served in the military regardless of time or place.

The Women Veterans Committee is the voice of those who seek strength and support in resolving problems and addressing concerns related to all women veterans. The committee identifies the issues and needs of women veterans and develops strategies to address and resolve them.

Our goals are accomplished through communication, representation, advocacy, and outreach. The Women Veterans Committee maintains a watchful stance as a guardian of equitable care and benefits for women veterans. The Women Veterans Committee establishes legislative priorities and works with Congress to secure the passage of responsible and just legislation that women veterans have earned.

In the spring of 1979, Linda Van Devanter discussed the concerns and needs of women veterans with many of VVA's founding members. It was then that VVA made its commitment to women veterans. The Women Veterans Committee began as the Women Veterans Project that spring. After VVA amended its Constitution, the Women Veterans Committee became a standing committee.

Women have served this country with great pride in all branches of the armed forces. The roles of women in the military are varied, diverse, and expanding. The composition of the VVA national Women Veterans Committee illustrates this point. Committee members and advisers come from both enlisted and officer ranks. They served in Vietnam, stateside, and worldwide with a broad range of duty assignments, occupations, and experiences. Diversity is the key element.

All women who served invested in the strength of our armed forces and performed their duties as part of a consolidated effort. They contributed to the whole. We did our jobs so that no gap existed in the fluid mechanics of the military machine. We did our jobs so that others could do theirs.

The Women Veterans Committee draws upon the experience of its members, but it is not specifically about how and where we served. It's about who we are now.

Annually, the VVA Government Affairs Committee develops the National Legislative Agenda. Each national committee and task force chair is represented on this committee and assists in the development, compilation, and advancement of our National Legislative Agenda. The priorities of women veterans are an integrated component of this document. The Women Veterans Committee has a voice in this process. It is with pride that I say we are supported in our cause.

A few proud accomplishments of the committee:

  • Members of the Women Veterans Committee pushed for the first Yale Report on Women Veterans that resulted in the 1982 GAO investigation of VA services to women veterans.
  • VVA was a major force in calling for the first congressional hearings on women veterans in 1983, which resulted in the passage of Public Law 98-160 that established the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.
  • VVA testified during congressional oversight hearings (1985-94) that helped to craft the legislative agenda for improved services to women veterans in all government agencies.
  • VVA Women Veterans Committee presented testimony and helped draft legislation that resulted in Public Law 102-585, the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992. Enactment of this law was a landmark victory in the long struggle for specific health-care programs for women veterans. The legislation also sought to broaden the context of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder to include care for the aftermath of sexual trauma associated with military duty.
  • VVA identified the need for a formal process to address the issues of women veterans. As a result of its efforts, in 1994 legislation was passed to create the Center for Women Veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • In 1996 VVA advocated for the extension of sexual trauma treatment.
  • The Women Veterans Committee is involved with the VVA Task Force for Homeless Veterans and supports legislation to establish funds to assist homeless women veterans.
  • VVA actively participated in the process that resulted in the National Center for PTSD--Women's Health Services Division.

Women veterans have been an integral part of VVA since 1979. We continue to respond to the needs of all women veterans.

   

E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org

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