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Women a growing part of VA services

Guest editorial

This Women’s History Month, the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center invites women veterans to continue making history with the department.

“For the Department of Veterans Affairs, Women’s History Month means more than just celebrating our women veterans — it means making sure they’re proud of the role we play in the remaining chapters of their story,” VA Chief of Staff Pam Powers said. “We will continue to build on the legacy that America’s women veterans have carved out by listening to them, respecting them and serving them with the dignity this country owes them.”

Women comprise about 10% of the veterans VA serves nationwide, and that number is set to increase, as women are about 20% of the military forces.

For decades, VA’s principal patient base was men. But today’s VA facilities provide comprehensive primary care for women, as well as gynecology, maternity, specialty care and mental health services. In the past fiscal year, 41 percent of all women veterans were enrolled in VA, and we expect that number to keep climbing as customer service and patient experiences for women veterans continue to improve.

Since VA started tracking outpatient satisfaction in 2017, we’ve seen women’s trust in VA climb higher and higher. In 2019, 83.8% of female veterans trusted the care they got at VA, and initial data in 2020 is on pace to see that trust score rise to nearly 85%.

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center offers a host of services geared toward women veterans, including comprehensive gender-specific primary and specialty care, mental health services, disease prevention and screening, maternity care coordination and urgent care services.

Enhanced maternity care is typically provided through arrangements made by the VA with local non-VA health providers. VA also provides maternity education and tools, childbirth preparation, breastfeeding support and lactation classes, breast pumps and other supplies, and care to the newborn for the first seven days after birth.

“By having trained, gender-specific providers at the medical center and each of our community clinics we can offer our women veterans comprehensive care in a single visit,” said Barbara Robinson, a registered nurse and Women Veterans Program manager at the Iron Mountain-based VA medical center.

To provide more timely and comprehensive health care services to women veterans, the medical center has a separate Women’s Wellness Clinic that offers a private waiting area for women and their children while waiting for appointments.

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center would like to thank the generations of women veterans who have shaped our military and served our country. VA encourages women veterans not currently using VA health care services to enroll and use the benefits they have earned. Contact the Women Veterans Call Center for information at 1-855-VA-Women (1-855-829-6636) or go online to http://www.womenshealth.va.gov.

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