ARLINGTON, Virginia –
The Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with the Department of Defense to implement the first Women’s Health Transition Training. The program is an in-person and virtual course designed to provide a female perspective to active-duty, Reserve and National Guard servicewomen who plan to transition to civilian or Reserve/National Guard status.
According to the VA, women are the fastest growing subgroup of U.S. veterans. They face greater health-related challenges after military service compared to their male counterparts, including: chronic pain, obesity, musculoskeletal issues, depression and suicide. Since 2001, age-adjusted rates of suicide among women veterans have increased by 85.2%, versus 30.5% among men.
“The biggest obstacle that the VA faces is simply awareness on what they provide to female veterans,” said Maj. Alea Nadeem, Headquarters Air Force deputy mission manager and member of the Air Force Women Initiatives Team. “That statistic, it was heartbreaking to learn, and it really drove me to help in developing this program that could potentially save lives.”
Data collected uncovered that fewer women veterans seek services and support from the VA. For example, women veterans with a psychiatric diagnosis do not connect with VA mental health care until a median of 2.4 years post military service vs. a median of 2.1 years in male counterparts.
“These trends underscore the need to recruit servicewomen into (Veterans Health Administration) health care and support services immediately after military separation,” Nadeem said.
In July 2018, the VA Women’s Health Transition Training Program started as a pilot at five Air Force bases. By June 2019, the training began operating as an official VA program and expanded to Army, Navy, and Marine Corps installations. The training is expected to transition ownership to the Veterans Benefits Administration in 2021.
“By providing relevant VHA health enrollment information, and describing the extent and depth of services offered at VHA related to women’s health, women veterans will learn how to access the health care services that they need and want at the VA in a timely manner,” Nadeem said.
The in-person courses are currently being provided in multiple national locations and the virtual offering is expected to be deployed August 2019.