VA Falls Down On Women's Care

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Houston Chronicle
June 14, 2008 Study reveals discrepancies in services offered
By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Health care for female military veterans lags behind the care offered to male vets at many VA facilities, an internal agency report says, even as women are serving on front lines at historic levels.
There are clear needs for more physicians trained in women's care and more equipment to meet women's health needs, said Friday's review by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It did add that strides are being made, such as creating on-site mammography services and establishing women's clinics at most VA medical centers. The department also is attempting to recruit more clinicians with training in women's care.
For now, female veterans aren't getting the same quality of outpatient care as men in about one-third of the VA's 139 facilities that offer it, the report said. That appeared to validate the complaints of advocates and some members of Congress who have said more emphasis needs to be placed on women's health.
Women make up about 5 percent of the VA's population, but that is expected to nearly double in the next two years.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said women veterans have complained about the lack of women's restrooms and private changing areas in some VA centers. Others have complained about the scarcity of women-only group counseling options.
"There's a definite feeling of isolation," Rieckhoff said. "There's a definite feeling that they're a minority and that big Army and big VA are still trying to understand their issues."
Any discrepancies in care are unacceptable and the agency is aggressively addressing the issue, said Dr. William Duncan, associate deputy undersecretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"We're striving to understand the reason for these health disparities and to eliminate differences in veterans health care based on personal characteristics," Duncan said.
Delphine Metcalf-Foster, 65, an Army veteran from the Persian Gulf War, still laughs when she recalls the first day she stepped into a VA waiting room in 1991 and the physician called out for "Mr. Metcalf."
"I knew he was talking about me, but I wouldn't move," said Metcalf-Foster, a member of the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans in Vallejo, Calif. "Of course, they weren't used to women there."
Despite that, Metcalf-Foster said, she thinks the VA has listened to the concerns of women like her and has adapted as more women have sought care.