Lawmakers pen letter to VA chief urging for better treatment of women veterans

Air Force women at Kadena Air Base stand at attention during womens history month ceremony
Photo credit U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

13 members of Congress are asking Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to improve the treatment of women veterans at VA healthcare facilities.

In a letter sent to Wilkie last week, the legislators say they are “deeply concerned that VA has failed to keep faith with women veterans.”

The letter cites a 2015 VA study which shares how women have experienced unwanted sexual attention at VA facilities, and for that reason, 57 percent of women surveyed preferred women-only clinics to mixed gender settings.

Women also expressed concerns about having limited access to female providers, private bathrooms, and showers.

The bipartisan letter calls the VA Secretary to do the following:

  • Make public the VA’s system-wide efforts to combat sexual harassment at VA facilities
  • Ensure every VA facility has a women’s health primary care provider
  • Determine specific measures to invest in and expedite women’s resources and services to increase capacity and reduce barriers to care
  • Create a separate priority list of construction upgrades at VA medical facilities to accommodate women veterans
  • Create separate tracking and support for women veterans in the VA homeless support programs
  • Nominate an Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health
  • Provide reports as to the qualifications of the new head of Center for Women Veterans and resources required by the Center

"VA appreciates the lawmakers’ views and will respond to them directly," said a Veterans Affairs spokesperson. The organization cites the creation and evolution of gynecology, maternity, specialty care, mental health services, and primary care services as its continued progress in serving the female veteran community. 

The letter comes a week after the New York Times revealed multiple women's accounts of harassment and discrimination when visiting their local VA.

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