VA and Air Force Team Up To Promote Women’s Health

August 27, 2018
Author: HigherEchelon's Women's Health Team

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Women’s Health Services Office has partnered with the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team to develop the VA Women’s Health Transition Pilot Training. This program, which began implementing training sessions at Air Force bases in July 2018, intends to address the health needs of transitioning servicewomen. The leading motivation behind these trainings is the negative trends in health outcomes for the women Veteran population. For example, women Veterans face greater health-related challenges after military service compared to their male counterparts, including: chronic pain, obesity, musculoskeletal issues, depression and suicide. Often, women Veterans do not understand what women’s health services are available to help them address their health-related challenges. Additionally, fewer women Veterans seek services and support from VA and often do not connect with the VA until an average of 2.7 years post military service or until mental/physical health issues have manifested.

The VA Women’s Health Transition Training Pilot program aims to provide servicewomen with a deeper understanding of the women’s health services available to them within the VA health care system and the VA health care enrollment process for continuation of health care services. VA is piloting the Women’s Health Transition Pilot Training at five Air Force bases, including Scott AFB, IL, Hill AFB, UT, Andrews AFB, MD, MacDill AFB, FL and the Pentagon, VA, until late spring 2019. One recent participant noted, “Every female should come experience this class in order to get a full view of the VA services and support available to female Veterans.”

The VA Women’s Health Pilot Transition Training discusses the major points along the women Veterans transition journey (see figure), focusing on how to enroll in and access health care services at VA. This interactive, high-energy course is led by a woman Veteran and covers the following: the transformed culture of VA for both male and female patients, range of women’s health and mental health care services, eligibility for enrollment in VA health care, expectations for women to proactively seek health care services post-separation, transition assistance, and logistical details such as facility structure, locations, and points of contact. The afternoon session of the training includes a presentation by local VA Medical Center (VAMC) staff to provide specific information about local services and facilities to help participants understand how the VA could best meet their health care needs.

Participants have enjoyed the trainings, including learning new information about VA culture and services and having a forum to ask women-specific health questions. One participant recommended the course to other women saying, “I would recommend this course because this is a great, open environment to ask questions and get gender-specific information. I invited other women {to register for the course today} but they couldn’t attend – I will now highly recommend/insist that they attend the next offering.”

There are a number of upcoming opportunities for transitioning servicewomen to take the VA Women’s Health Transition Pilot Training. If you know someone who would benefit from an upcoming session at one of the 5 locations holding the pilot, please contact the local A&FRC or the Program Manager, Christine Rickertsen, at christine.rickertsen@the-he.com (308-325-3357)