When the military draft ended in 1973, women represented just 2% of enlisted service members. Today, more than 16% of enlistees are women, and the number is only projected to rise .
This means that the number of female veterans needing services at the Department of Veterans Affairs is also growing – nearly tripling between 2000 and 2015 .
Unfortunately, the VA has not adapted to meet these shifting demographics – resulting in systemic deficiencies in the services provided to female veterans.
“With more women joining the military today than ever before, it’s critically important that the medical services and benefits provided to our female veterans at VA facilities nationwide meet their unique needs and circumstances,” AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Jeremy Lannan said.
“Today, unfortunately, the availability of gender-specific services across VA facilities is uneven, and women veterans receive varying levels of coverage depending on individual locations,” Lannan said. “We can and must do better to ensure that all veterans are treated equitably and receive the care and services they have earned.”
That’s why AFGE is calling on Congress to pass the Deborah Sampson Act (HR 3224, S 514), which would ensure that women veterans can access comprehensive, gender-specific services at VA facilities. The House version of the bill , which was approved by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Oct. 29, incorporates and builds upon 16 other proposed bills that address VA services for women veterans.
“As a veteran myself, I have seen firsthand the need for the VA to improve the services it offers to female veterans,” said AFGE member Stephanie Graf, who serves on the union’s Human Rights Committee. “This legislation is long past due, and Congress needs to pass these commonsense solutions without delay.”
While passage of this legislation is vitally important, we continue to stress the need for the VA to fill the nearly 50,000 staff vacancies across the country. These vacancies are making it harder for the VA to ensure that all veterans have timely access to health care and benefits that address their unique needs.