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

October 2001/November 2001

Women Veterans Committee Report

Unifying Women Veterans

By Marsha Four, Chair

The Women Veterans Breakfast at our Tenth National Convention was a great success. Claire Starnes, president of Vietnam Women Veterans, was the keynote speaker. She discussed the importance of unifying the efforts of women veterans from VSOs and organizations, thereby maximizing our strength in moving the agenda of women veterans. Claire received the Women Veterans Committee’s Award of Recognition for her contribution to women veterans and for co-founding Vietnam Women Veterans, Inc.

The Committee also hosted an informal gathering of women veterans late one afternoon. We were able sit around and just talk plain talk. We had the opportunity to meet new friends and learn a little bit more about ourselves and each other.

At the convention, a new resolution was added to the Committee’s existing resolutions. This involves the VA Women Veteran Coordinator program, which has been in place for many years. In 1986, Women Veteran Coordinators were appointed at all VA Medical Centers. There are only a few full-time Women Veteran Coordinators. In the 173 VA Medical Centers, only 22 full-time coordinator positions were funded originally. It is unclear if these positions remain designated and filled as full-time slots. Most have collateral assignments.

It is quite disturbing that after all these years most are not even validated by the assignment of appropriate hours to complete their tasks. The documented accomplishments of these dedicated coordinators are easily recognizable. Recognition for their outstanding work is always accepted by Medical Center Directors and VISN Directors. But again we ask: When will validation be given to the work of the Women Veteran Coordinators by allotting them appropriate time to accomplish their mission? To some, this issue may seem trivial. But to others, it seems like a condescending pat on the head. VVA is working to address this situation.

After the Convention, I was asked by VVA President Tom Corey to again chair the Women Veterans Committee. I will work to the best of my ability to fulfill the responsibility of this position.

With the passing of legislation making service-connected mastectomies eligible for VA Special Monthly (Special K) Compensation, we awaited the opportunity to review the proposed VA regulations. These were published on July 20 in the Federal Register, pages 37940-41. Comments were to be received by the VA by August 20. VVA awaits a response to our comments on these regulations. If the final regulations are put in place and VVA remains dissatisfied, a petition to the Secretary for further consideration can be done.

The proposed regulations were reviewed by Linda Schwartz, Len Selfon, and me. We then prepared VVA’s response. Significant issue was taken in the proposed ruling to how the VA would determine the extent of tissue removed in service-connected mastectomies to qualify for Special K awards. Several other VSOs joined us in this response. We are awaiting the publication of VA’s final version of the regulations in the Federal Register. Then we will respond accordingly.

VVA will be a presenter at the Second National Vietnam Women Veterans Conference in San Antonio, September 27-30. We will lead a discussion panel. VVA membership outreach will take place, and we will stress the importance of unifying the voices of women veterans.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2002. WIMSA will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2002. The Vietnam Women Veterans Memorial will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2003. The VVA Women Veterans Committee is beginning the task of coordinating activities to occur during these celebrations. Information on this will continue over the ensuing months.


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