terry_moakleyWhen I arrived at my local VA Medical Center for the first time more than 45 years ago, apart from the female nurses, most of the other employees at that hospital were men. The same was true for the patient population. There were no female patients on my Spinal Cord Injury unit back then. Over the years since, during my countless hospital stays, there have been a couple of females on the SCI unit with the same disability as me but they have been few and far between.

However, it is no secret that the number of females serving in our military has grown considerably in recent years. In the year 2000, there were some 160,000 female veterans receiving VA services nationwide; however, by 2012, that number had more than doubled. VA health care services were provided to 360,000 female veterans last year. And, based on the numbers of women currently on active duty or in the reserves, the agency anticipates that female VA users will double in the next ten years.

Unfortunately, the VA has also determined that women veterans are underutilizing available VA benefits and health care services. So in 2010, the VA began an outbound Call Center program to reach out to women veterans. We must assume the VA believes that trying to contact women vets about its programs and services is simply not enough. Last week, VA officials announced that any female veteran can now contact the VA for health care and benefits information when they launched a new Women Veterans Hotline, 1-855-VA-WOMEN, or 1-855-829-6636.

The agents who receive calls on the Women Veterans Hotline are trained to do much more than provide general VA benefits and services information. They can route incoming calls to others within the VA when needed. Agents are also trained to respond to crisis situations such as suicidal behavior, sexual trauma, domestic violence and homelessness.

Also, VA has established agreements so that agents might hand off incoming calls when needed to their Veterans Crisis Line and their Caregiver Support Line. And, in difficult situations like these, the VA WOMEN Call Center will respond to the maker of the call within 30 days to insure that she received the help requested.

In addition, women veterans who utilize this hotline can expect to receive information about comprehensive primary care, mental health services, emergency and specialty care, gynecology services, maternity care, crisis support and homelessness assistance.

On May 9, VetsFirst testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee regarding several pieces of pending legislation, including the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act (S. 131). This legislation, which was introduced on January  24, would require VA to establish the type of hotline that VA has now established. S. 131 also calls on VA to use the hotline to connect women veterans with needed services not provided by VA. We noted VA’s efforts and urged the Senate to quickly pass this legislation.

Once again, the VA WOMEN Call Center hotline is 1-855- VA-WOMEN, or 1-855-829-6636.

We ask our loyal readers to share this new resource as often as possible with women veterans, their family members and their caregivers.

Terry Moakley
Chair of the VetsFirst Committee[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]