Women veterans are the fastest growing demographic group of veterans, yet these patriots face many challenges, including substance abuse, homelessness, mistrust of the military healthcare system and the widespread issue of being overlooked as veterans.
In Michigan, home to tens of thousands of women veterans, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency is launching an outreach campaign called “She Is a Veteran” to recognize women veterans for their service, to help them tell their unique stories and ultimately to connect them to the benefits and services they earned for serving their country.
The three-year initiative will serve as the building blocks of an enduring statewide program that supports women veterans and addresses their specific issues identified through the campaign.
“As an underserved population, women veterans face significant barriers in getting the health care and services they need and also experience a lack of recognition for their service and dedication to our country,” said Erika Hoover, Women Veteran Initiative Coordinator for the MVAA. “Their unique experiences in the military call for a broad range of transition support – from health care, to education and employment assistance, to services related to military sexual trauma.”
Nationwide, there are 2 million women veterans today, making up nearly 10 percent of the total veteran population. And while the number of veterans overall is decreasing, the number of women veterans is increasing rapidly.
According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs projections from 2015 to 2045:
• The total veteran population will decrease significantly in both Michigan and the United States during that 30-year period, driven by the decline in men veterans.
• Yet the proportion of women veterans in will increase significantly. In Michigan, while women veterans made up just 7 percent of the state’s total veteran population in 2015, they will account for 16 percent of the veteran population in 2045.
This trend will place more demands for healthcare services for women veterans, according to a new campaign by the VA called “Building Trust with Women Veterans.” In its effort to rebuild trust with women veterans, Veterans Affairs is striving to meaningfully improve how they experience care at VA facilities.
Data shows that women veterans also face numerous challenges, according to the VA. About 1 in 4 women veterans responded “yes” when screened for military sexual trauma. The suicide rate of women veterans is 1.8 times higher than that of their civilian counterparts. Further, a higher percentage of female veterans have a service-connected disability and live in poverty than male veterans.
Women veterans are also four times more likely to become homeless than women who are not veterans, according to a recent report by the National Conference of State Legislators. Pathways to homelessness include trauma in the military, mental illness and unemployment.
“These factors, combined with a lack of social support and a sense of isolation, can make it difficult for women to readjust to civilian life,” the report states.
In Michigan, the She Is a Veteran campaign aims to make this readjustment easier. Michigan has about 43,000 women veterans, 16th most in the nation.
Women veterans interested in telling their stories are invited to fill out and submit this form. For more information, contact Erika Hoover at HooverE2@michigan.gov.