Women Veterans: Unique Experiences, Unique Needs

The transition from military to civilian life is a time of profound changes and challenges. For women veterans, it can be even harder. These challenges are compounded by unique issues.

The experiences of men and women in service are different. A report from the Wounded Warrior Project suggests that the majority of women veterans experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Nearly 2 out of 3 women veterans have experienced sexual harassment, and almost half experience at least one sexual assault during service.

Women have served in and alongside the U.S. military since before our country began. They have contributed crucially across all branches and roles, with increasingly more serving in active combat roles alongside men. Despite their integral role, however, women veterans often face significant barriers to receiving the care and support they need after service. These barriers can include a lack of recognition of their veteran status, underrepresentation in veteran support programs, and insufficient healthcare services that address their specific needs. Additionally, women veterans are much less likely to reach out for help from a male Veteran Service Officer or social worker.

The effects of MST are profound and last a lifetime. Survivors may experience a range of psychological issues, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorder. Moreover, MST can severely impact a veteran’s ability to reintegrate into civilian life, affecting relationships, employment, and overall quality of life.

Many who have experienced MST unfortunately do not receive the care they need. Studies show that barriers to reporting MST incidents and seeking help include fear of stigmatization, concerns about not being believed, and a general lack of awareness about available resources. Many cases go. Unreported, and the care provided often does not meet the specific needs of women veterans. Although a male veteran is much less likely to experience MST, they are much more likely to receive care than a female veteran.

Women veterans deserve the highest level of support and care as they transition to civilian life and beyond. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers have Women Veterans Programs. The VA has also been expanding Women’s Clinics, where women veterans can get general health care wellness checks, routine screenings, and more advanced services, including mental health services, separate from male veterans.

The West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance also has a Women Veterans Program. The program includes a Coordinator and eight female Veteran Service Officers throughout the state who can assist with MST and other claims for women veterans who may be uncomfortable dealing with a male service officer.

If you are a woman veteran, we want to hear from you. On our website, you can sign up for email updates from the Women Veterans Program and request to enroll in the Women Veterans Program. A woman veteran will contact you to help you access the full scope of benefits that you’ve earned and get you the help you need.