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Promoting Women’s Health: VA and Air Force Partnership Sees Results

March 14, 2019 in

[3:30 MINUTE READ]

The first blog on this topic, “VA and Air Force team up to promote Women’s Health” was posted August 27th, 2018.

Since late 2017, HigherEchelon has been honored to support the VA Women’s Health Transition Training Pilot, an initiative born of a partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the United State Air Force.  The program provides a health education course designed for transitioning servicewomen to inform them of their earned Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services and change perceptions on the value that the VA can offer them. Our course prepares servicewomen for their health transition by discussing their unique health challenges as servicewomen and the procedures to enroll in VHA care.

The Need is Clear

“This info is not given anywhere else.  This is one of the most helpful classes I have had in the separating process”

Quote from a Course Participant

Research has shown that servicewomen have different healthcare challenges compared to their male counterparts. Disparate health outcomes—particularly around musculoskeletal, mental health, sexual trauma, and homelessness—specifically affect women after they leave the military. Compounding such health issues is the fact that fewer female veterans seek services and support from the VA than men, and those who do seek care don’t do so until an average of 2.7 years after leaving the military or until health issues have manifested.1

The most concerning health statistic for female veterans is suicide rates.

Between 2001 and 2015, the rate of suicide among women Veterans increased 62.4% compared to 29.7% for Veteran men.1  Moreover, the rate of suicide among Veterans who have not recently used VA services increased faster than those who did. Major Alea Nadeem, Headquarters Air Force Deputy Mission Manager and member of the Women Initiatives Team stated: “That statistic [women veteran suicide rates], it was heartbreaking to learn, and it really drove me to help in developing this program that could potentially save lives.”  These issues show just how imperative it is to connect servicewomen with VHA health care and support services – doing so empowers women, helps break down barriers to enrollment, and save lives. 

Breaking Down Barriers

“The openness and transparency of the trainers was engaging and informative.  This course eased my anxiety about my future out of the military”

Quote from a Course Participant

Through diligent evaluation, the Women’s Health Transition Training Pilot has unveiled key themes around VA enrollment and utilization barriers for transitioning servicewomen. On a large scale, transitioning service women

  • Do not view themselves as “Veterans,” leading them to under-utilize their earned benefits
  • Do not understand how to best prepare for their transition to the civilian sector regarding healthcare
  • Lack knowledge of enrollment processes and VA eligibility, services, and resources
  • Do not always believe VA is a place to receive quality women-specific care

The Women’s Health Transition Training Course is designed to specifically target these barriers and provide care and support to transitioning servicewomen in getting the information they both need and deserve.  Our course takes a tailored approach to personalized and experiential education, designed by and for service women. 

Next Steps

The Women’s Health Transition Training Team is exploring a virtual solution to spread knowledge and accessibility of the course to transitioning servicewomen stationed across the world.  While still in the initial phases, the platform aims to be a synchronous platform that can most closely mirror the in-person experience otherwise had.  This medium will allow participants from anywhere on the planet to interact with the instructor, other participants, and material in real-time.  The team hopes to have the platform developed and early tests completed by June 2019.

Tell Me More

This program creates a safe space for women to discuss gender and military specific challenges unlike any other. It is critical for servicewomen to receive information about their future healthcare, challenge their beliefs about the VA health system, and build a network and community, all of which is vital to their success, health, well-being, and sense of fulfillment after serving our country. 

Currently the VA Women’s Health Transition Training Pilot is visiting the following locations:

  • MacDill Air Force Base, FL,
  • Joint Base Andrews, MD
  • Pentagon, VA
  • Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH
  • Hurlburt Field, FL
  • Joint Base Lewis McChord, WA
  • Travis Air Force Base, CA
  • Robins Air Force Base, GA
  • San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, CA  

A new report by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWTS) recently recommended this pilot be expanded. The report called the program a “best practice…because it informs the participants of the resources available to servicewomen through the VA.

We are proud to be a part of such a special program.  If you are interested in how to build a culture where your employees speak up, contact HigherEchelonTMtoday!

Additional media articles highlighting the great work of this program can be found below:

Resources:

  1. US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP) Facts About Suicide Among Women Veterans: August 2017 https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/VA-Women-Veterans-Fact-Sheet.pdf