National Alliance on Mental Illness
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More women are serving in the military in more capacities than ever before. Currently, there are approximately 1.8 million women veterans (8 percent of the total veteran population). The VA estimates that by 2020, that number will increase to 10 percent of the total veteran population. Currently, about 15 percent of all military personnel in Iraq are women, and female troops are stationed in some of the most dangerous areas. In response, the Veterans Administration is developing services and supports designed to meet the unique needs of women veterans, though there may be disparities in access to benefits: it has been suggested that women veterans may face additional obstacles when filing PTSD-related claims.
For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a Center for Women Veterans on its website and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System introduced the Women’s Health Care Center in 2002. Designed to be sensitive to women’s concerns, it offers individual and group therapy, with psychoeducational classes and seminars tailored to the unique needs of women veterans. The Women Veterans Health program was elevated to a Strategic Health Care Group within the Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards in 2007.
As part of the National Center for PTSD in Menlo Park, Calif., the Department of Veterans Affairs also introduced the National Women’s Trauma Recovery Program to treat women veterans living with PTSD or Military Sexual Trauma (MST). According to the National Center for PTSD, women in the military run a double risk of developing PTSD—10 percent of women versus 4 percent of male service members—for reasons ranging from battle stress and sexual harassment to assault. The VA also says that women may take longer to recover from PTSD and are four times more likely than men to experience long-lasting PTSD.
For women veterans we have included information on gender-specific PTSD treatment as well as VA services and links to organizations serving women veterans.