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January/February 2006
Women Veterans Committee Report
 
 

Continuing Resolutions
 

MARSHA FOUR, CHAIR

It has been five fast months since the National Convention. Our committee resolutions were essentially unchanged and passed without objection. The first part of resolution WV-1-05 in many respects is an organizational policy. It affirms the gender equality of VVA in what we do and how we operate. The second part requires action at several levels of VVA and can be accomplished by including women veteran information in the chapter and state council outreach programs. We also work nationally by encouraging the state Directors of Veterans Affairs to establish women veteran coordinators.

Resolution WV-2-02 requires oversight and vigilance. The committee is able to remain in contact with the VA Center for Women Veterans, the Women Veterans Health Program Office, and the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to stay informed and provide input. Committee members also have provided resource information to members pertaining to resources and resolutions to specific problems or concerns.

In the review of the handbook used by the VA Women Veterans Program Managers in the performance of their duties, it is not difficult to understand why the committee stands firmly by Resolution WV-4-05. We continue to advocate for this at the national level.

The committee met once in the fall and discussed ideas for presentations at the 2006 Leadership Conference. This culminated in a submission to the Leadership Planning Committee. We await the results of its decision. The committee invited several House Veterans Affairs’ Committee staff to attend the meeting and discuss legislation that would have an impact on women veterans. Linda Bennett of the minority staff on health care provided the committee with insight on several fronts. Discussions ensued on the following items:

1. Military Sexual Trauma Among the Reserve Components of the Armed Forces: A study was mandated by Public Law 160-117 to report to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee by 2001. Not having received it, Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) requested the report in the fall of 2005, and one of two pages was provided to Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine). This study, referred to by the VA as the “Street Study,” was not approved by the VA in its entirety. It can be downloaded as a complete report on the Women Veterans Committee page of the VVA web site. The study was completed in 2003 and sent to OMB but never was published. In today’s world with the increased number of women  serving, the VA needs to be prepared to address this issue, not only in the money required to provide treatment, but the staff needed to deliver it.

2. National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study (NVVRS): More than five years ago, Congress mandated that the VA replicate the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. Research Triangle Institute was awarded this study, as sole contractor, to replicate the original one it undertook 20 years ago. RTI was to return to the same cohort of study participants in order to reexamine their psychosocial and physical status.

After two years, VA asked that the study be halted due to a review and an audit by the Inspector General Office. That report is quite telling. However, it is important that this study be conducted to satisfy its intent as a longitudinal study. It is the only one to include both women and minorities. To substitute “The Twin Study” in its stead, which is being considered by the VA, is unacceptable, and it would fail to fulfill the congressional requirement of Public Law 106-419, Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000. This committee is working in conjunction with the Veterans Health Committee and the PTSD Committee on our approach to the completion of this study. For more information, go to: www.vva.org/TheVeteran/2005_09/gov.htm

3. S 1182 and HR 4046: We will keep an eye on these two bills. Several sections relate to women veterans. One provides for 14 days post-natal care to infants born to women veterans who have used the VA for pregnancy care.

The committee has been watching recent DoD action that would develop a sexual trauma database in which specific victim and perpetrator identifiers would be collected. It was reported that DoD received over 6,000 responses to this suggested database. VVA’s Women Veterans Committee, through the Government Relations Department, has drafted a letter to the Secretary of the Army expressing our concerns about the development of the database.

Carole Turner, the Director of the VA Women’s Health Program Office, was a guest at our January meeting. She discussed the recently formed women veterans’ mental health committee. She also had updates on initiatives and the Women Veteran Program Managers.

   

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