The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) yesterday released its report California’s Women Veterans: Responses to the 2011 Survey. The report covers areas of need experienced by women upon separation from the armed services, an issue particularly pertinent to areas housing large active duty and veteran populations such as San Diego.
The report finds that in 2009 women comprised eight percent of the total retired military force, though that number is expected to rise to 15 percent by 2035.
“Women veterans have some of the same needs as their male counterparts as well as a gender-specific set of needs,” the survey finds. “Understanding what these needs are and serving women veterans will become an increasingly important function of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”
Specifically, female veterans identify physical and mental health issues as their most immediate concerns. Many surveyed were unaware of the numerous state and federal programs available to help meet these needs. Further, a significant number, particularly younger women and enlisted personnel, reported experiencing military sexual trauma.
Women have been found to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their military experience at a rate higher than men. Sometimes, the disorder’s onset results from sexual trauma, although until recently the Department of Veterans’ Affairs refused to recognize PTSD as a service-related injury if it was brought about by a sexual assault while serving. Women have also faced an uphill battle in getting help with PTSD symptoms that are not related to sexual abuse, as many scholars have voiced doubt that women, who do not officially serve in combat roles, are susceptible to war-related trauma.
Further points of need identified include help transitioning to the civilian workforce and finding employment that will allow female veterans to provide for their families, a common concern with recently discharged males.
A complete copy of the report is available here.