The number of women serving in the military has grown tremendously in recent decades. But a new study shows the problems women veterans face have grown even faster, and they’re not getting the help they need. Here’s the whole story.
Female Vets Facing Problems
A recent study from the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) shows that women are coming out of the United States military worse for the wear. And things only tend to go further downhill e as the years pass.
According to the WWP study, women veterans are more likely than their male counterparts to suffer from depression, whether mild or severe.
Women are more susceptible to the effects of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Those aren’t surprising findings on their own, says a follow-up from NBC News that points to the same basic trends among non-women.
The Impact of Sexual Trauma
According to NBC, multiple studies on people across a wide spectrum have shown that women at large suffer more often from depression and related illnesses than men do.
But women soldiers face special circumstances, both during their service and afterward, that doesn’t necessarily carry over to veteran men, too.
One stark finding from the WWP study is that women in the military were three times more likely to experience sexual trauma while in the military than men.
What’s more, women are also less likely to receive the help they need from the Department of Veterans Affairs when that trauma occurs.
Survivors Speak Out
Georgia veteran Valerie Lewis knows all too well just how true and tough that scenario can be for a woman in the armed forces.
“I myself am a survivor of it,” said Lewis of sexual trauma while on active duty.
Lewis is one of dozens of women veterans who traveled to Washington in September to express their concerns before Congress.
As the WWP study found, Lewis says she couldn’t get the help she needed, largely for fear of retribution.
A big part of the problem, according to Lewis, is that many service doctors, including mental health professionals, are male. And a “guy” was the last person she wanted to tell about the situation with her abuser.
Mental and Emotional ‘War Wounds’
So Lewis never reported the assault, but she still bears the mental and emotional scars today.
And once women leave the armed forces for civilian life, they still face challenges beyond what even male veterans encounter.
The WWP report found that many VA clinics simply do not offer the health services that women like Lewis need throughout their lifetimes.
Even some basic functions like mammograms and yearly OB-GYN exams are hard to come by.
“So Much Work”
According to the VA, they help arrange services through community providers when a Veterans clinic is not able to provide a particular service.
But Lewis says that making an appointment through community care can take months. The WWP report backs up that claim and says that many women veterans just end up going without the care they need.
The VA says they are committed to providing the best possible care to all who have served, but it sometimes seems like a long, slow road to nowhere for Lewis and other women vets.
House Republican Nancy Mace, who’s heading the charge to fund more services for women veterans, summed up the situation: “There’s so much work that we have to do.”
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Joseph Sohm