Female Veterans Face Continuous Challenges

By Jaclyn Driscoll
A leading researcher says transitioning back into civilian life can be difficult for all veterans, but the growing population of female veterans face additional challenges.

Lindy Carrow leads all research on veterans’ issues for the Social Impact Research Center, a nonprofit organization. Her team gathers information on current veterans in Illinois from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The non-profit uses that data to implement its programs. Carrow focused a large part of research on the increasing female veteran population.

“Back in the Cold War, female vets only made up 8% of the population,” said Carrow. “But now they are all the way up to 17-18%.”
As the number of female veterans increases, so do the variety of services that the VA must provide.

“While 18% of new veterans are women, they make up 23% of the veterans with low incomes,” said Carrow. “They are also disproportionately not in the labor force. So only 11% of male veterans are out of the labor force, but 17% of female veterans are.”

Carrow explains that the new female veterans are more likely to be young, a minority, unemployed, lower income, divorced and raising children alone than the new male veterans.

“Female veterans also have additional challenges related to their time in the service: military sexual trauma,” said Carrow. “A Veterans Health Administration (VHA) study found that 15% of female patients reported military sexual trauma.”

It is also vital to point out that this is “a very under reported issue,” said Carrow.

“Other studies show that 38% of female veteran sexual assault survivors utilize mental health services and if the assault occurred in the military, they’re much less likely to use VA provided health services,” said Carrow.
With the help of Carrow’s research team, the VA is attempting to adjust to the different needs of female veterans.

“The VA is trying to create more women’s health centers and make it a little more friendly to people other than old men, “ said Carrow. “But it’s a process.”

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