Similarly, when I left active duty everyone asked what were my plans for the future? I replied with enthusiasm, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow!” Unfortunately, my mother was quick to point out that this was not the proper approach to look at the future of my health care. Fortunately, I was eligible for care through the Veterans Administration (VA).
I was not impressed by the health care I received while on active duty. There was no consistency and I saw whatever doctor happened to be on duty at the clinic when I went in, regardless of their specialty. Cautious of the younger troops trying to get out of work, the doctors treated me as if I was lying, and when I went in with a legitimate problem the solution was inevitably Vitamin M (Motrin) for every ailment from bruised bones to missed periods.* I was not looking forward to another military/government health care system, but I had a year left of grad school and didn’t see any other option when it was time for my annual woman’s appointment.
The VA is not health insurance, but does offer low-cost health care to ALL veterans, not just disabled or combat vets, based on annual income. To my pleasant surprise, I have received some of the best health care in my life at the VA. Even when I had insurance I booked all of my appointments there.
If you are or know a veteran, please urge them to register with the VA. Even if they have insurance now they may not in the future and once registered, they are registered for life. Also, if they need to put in claim for a service-related disability later in life it is much easier if they are already registered. Veterans can register here.
Currently 8% of all veterans and 11% of OIF/OEF/OND** veterans are women. Ladies, did you know there is a Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group specifically for us! In 1988, the Women Veterans Health Program was created to streamline services for women veterans in order to provide more cost-effective medical and psychosocial care. Their mission statement ends with their declaration to “strive to be a national leader in the provision of health care for women, thereby raising the standard of care for all women.”
How wonderful is that?! After trying to hide our gender and show how tough we are, we finally get to celebrate our differences! Again, these services are not just for service related disabilities and offer women veteran’s access to the latest and greatest technology and care. VA health care for women veterans includes:
- General care includes health evaluation and counseling, disease prevention, nutrition counseling, weight control, smoking cessation, and substance abuse counseling and treatment as well as gender-specific primary care, e.g., cervical cancer screens (Pap smears), breast cancer screens (mammograms), birth control, preconception counseling, menopausal support (hormone replacement therapy).
- Mental health includes evaluation and assistance for issues such as depression, mood, and anxiety disorders; intimate partner and domestic violence; sexual trauma; elder abuse or neglect; parenting and anger management; marital, caregiver, or family-related stress; and post-deployment adjustment or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Women—and men as well—may experience repeated sexual harassment or sexual assault during their military service. Special services are available to women who have experienced MST. VA provides free, confidential counseling and treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to MST.
- Management and screening of chronic conditions includes heart disease, diabetes, cancer, glandular disorders, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia as well as sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
- Reproductive health care includes maternity care, infertility evaluation and limited treatment; sexual problems, tubal ligation, urinary incontinence, and others. VA is prohibited by legislative authority from providing either in-vitro fertilization or abortion services.
- Rehabilitation, homebound, and long-term care. VA referrals are given to those in need of rehabilitation therapies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, exercise therapy, recreational therapy, and vocational therapy. Homebound and long-term care services are available as well, limited to those meeting specific requirements.
Programs for Special Groups
- Special programs provide services for homeless women Veterans, victims of domestic violence, and women Veterans interested in education and training, employment assistance, and vocational rehabilitation.
Please visit their website for more information and remember our benefits are like federal funds – if we don’t use them, they will take them away!
*The corpsman and medical officers assigned to my units were far more caring and consistent than clinic doctors. These statements are in regards to the medical and dental clinics on base.
**Operation Iraq Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation New Dawn (OND)