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Female Veterans September 2, 2011

Posted by tackettmedia in homelessness, sustainability.
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I think I already talked about my work as communications coordinator of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission and The Key Alliance. While I am responsible for content updates on our social media, Website and blog as well as media relations, I also write issue briefs, situation analysis and policy briefs on issues surrounding homelessness.

Most recently, I was working on a situation analysis about female veterans.

It seems to be the “it” theme with the military right now because the female veteran population is increasing.

The percentage of females serving in the military has been increasing from 3.3% of enlisted troops in FY1974 to 10.9% in FY1990 to14.8% in FY2004. By 2007, 165,000 female troops had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan (that number currently stands at 182,000), which compares to 41,000 in the Gulf War and 7,500 in the Vietnam War.

In testimony before the House Committee on Veteran Affairs in 2009, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs noted that the United States has about 1.8 million women veterans. He further stated that women currently comprise about 14% of the active duty military and 17.6% of Guard and Reserves.

The military, over the past year, has made great strides in homelessness prevention for veterans and has vowed to eradicate veteran homelessness in five years. However, female veterans who are trying to adjust back to civilian life after a deployment deal with different issues than their male counterparts.

Female active duty soldiers have been found to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at higher rates than their male counterparts. Between 23 and 29% of female veterans seeking medical care through the VA reported that they have been sexually assaulted. Sexual assault has been linked to PTSD, depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, disruption of social networks, and employment difficulties—and places female veterans at an increased risk of homelessness.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that especially among young female veterans, the unemployment rate is significantly higher than for non-veterans of comparable age.

Because homeless female veterans still make up a relatively small percentage of the entire homeless veteran population (5%), homeless services are not geared to address the special needs of female veterans.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, Eric K. Shinseki, said during the 2011 National Training Summit on Women Veterans in July, that support for women veterans has improved but “it has not been enough.” The VA announced the new Task Force on Women Veterans in July 2011, which will develop a comprehensive VA action plan focusing on key issues fac-ing women veterans and specific actions to solve them.

These issues will include obstetric and gynecological care, child care, military sexual trauma, homelessness, aging, and end-of-life issues, to name a few.

I believe the goals layed out are great. However, the military needs to take a step back and truly examine whom they are sending to their training courses which should help investigate female sexual assaults in the active duty military. I know that male soldiers are sent to receive these trainings.

As a woman, who has been sexually assaulted in the past, it is hard enough to talk about the issue. I sure would never have approached a man for help.

Think about it. No matter how capable a man is in dealing with these sensitive issues, in a military that is still dominated by and known for male chauvinism, a female soldier is likely NOT to seek help from a male soldier for rape or sexual assault. The military needs to train female active duty soldiers to address these issues. Male soldiers who become victims are more likely to open up to a female than a female victim is to open up to a male.