News item: Women deployed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are emerging as a group especially vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder, researchers reported this week at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
The official policy of the U.S. military is that women do not serve in combat.
But women are on patrol where bullets fly, mortar rounds crash down, convoys are assaulted and IEDs blow up. More than 100 female American soldiers have been killed in convoys, patrols, helicopters and general mayhem.
Just in case all that is combat, the VA has done a rapid expansion of its women's health programs for this new soldier, the woman (not) in combat.
Women Veterans Program Manager Gina Painter, who works at the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City, is clear:
"We acknowledge we haven't been there for our women veterans as we should have, but we're really trying to get the word out that the culture is changing. The VA is not a military hospital, and there are people in the VA who care about our women as much as the men.
"What we really want them to know is, this VA is not your father's VA any more. It's your VA."
Instead of Vietnam-era nurses and older career women, she's getting young soldiers from today's wars. She expects as much as 70 percent over the next five years to be "that young demographic, in their 20s," women of child-bearing age, who make up 10 percent of the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This has meant new services by the VA's Women Veterans Program based at the Salt Lake City facility, but available in local VA clinics such as Ogden's.
Biggest addition? The key phrase is "reproductive age." They now provide full OB/GYN services, maternity care and even cover the first seven days of your child's life. In October, a female obstetrician will join the staff.
Eligibility is interesting. As I said, the military does not, officially, allow women in combat, "but on this end, if they mark 'combat' on their application" and served where combat was going on, "they're considered combat."
Also important: "Because there's such a high rate of military sexual trauma for women -- and for men, too -- the policy is, even if you don't qualify for VA services, if you have been sexually assaulted while on military duty, you can get all your mental health, physical care for that, at the Veterans Administration for free."
Getting the word out is her hardest job. The additional services for women are new and a lot of women haven't heard yet.
Plus, "women don't always see or recognize themselves as veterans, especially the women from past eras who describe themselves as 'Oh, I was just support,' or 'I pushed paper,' or 'I was just a nurse.'
"And a lot of times, because it is a man's world in the military and they had a bad experience in the military, the last thing they want to do is come to a military hospital. They don't know that we have a secluded, private clinic with female providers."
But they do. You can reach the clinic at 801-582-1565, extension 2613, or email Gina at gina.painter@VA.gov. Women can also get services at the Ogden VA clinic at 801-479-4105.
Women are no different from anyone else who serves in the military. They do the job, they deserve the care, and the people running our government better make sure they continue to get it.
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.