American culture has long idolized the armed forces and those who serve our country have represented the epitome of manliness. This equation of men and the military is an entrenched but narrow sighted perception that devalues the women who serve and helps perpetuate prejudice and discrimination against women.
Although great strides have been made in recent years toward achieving gender equality, the veteran population is still male dominated with over 90 percent of the veteran population consisting of men. Now that percentage is shrinking as the post 9/11 veteran population increases and it becomes harder to ignore women veterans.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is one four women veterans currently serving in Congress. She recently told The Washington Post, “There’s still a lot of misperception that exists and a lot of misinformation, though by and large most people are sincerely interested in learning more and hearing more from us,” about women in combat roles, Gabbard said in an interview. “We’re coming at this as a continuation of the service to our country.”
Currently, over 2 million of the almost 22 million U.S. veterans are women and the percentage of those women who are registered in the VA’s system is twice as high as the number of men in the system.
Yet, eligible women are approximately 30 percent less likely to seek treatment than their male counterparts.
In this article for Seattle’s kuow.org, Maggie Castillotorres, who served in the U.S. Navy for eight years, explains that it is easy to feel invisible as a woman veteran and the VA hospital is not an exception. She says when she walked in she was continually asked “Are you the spouse of a veteran?”
Dr. Patty Hayes, the chief consultant for women veterans’ health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, says that although the VA was originally built for men, they’re working hard to change that.
In the New York Times, the VA says that people respond better to treatment when they are treated alongside others that are similar to them. Sensibly, some VAs now provide full time women-only clinics and they’ve been exceedingly popular thus far.
High demand for veteran health care was the impetus for Cohen Veterans Network, which was formed so that high-quality mental health care can be easily accessible to all veterans, regardless of role while in uniform, discharge status and certainly irrespective of gender.