LISTEN LIVE

women veterans

VA doctors and nurses who attend the training at USF Health CAMLS can practice women's health exams on real people trained to act like patients.
Allison Long / USF Health CAMLS

The Department of Veterans Affairs is working with USF Health to train providers to better care for women patients.

Female veterans are nearly 2 1/2 times more likely than their civilian counterparts to kill themselves. Advocates say women's mental health challenges are different from those of men.

A new program in Los Angeles is trying to provide female veterans with health care outside the VA, which some consider a male dominated environment.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The recent scandal over Marines sharing nude photos of female Marines online hasn’t demoralized some women veterans. Two female West Point graduates from Florida refuse to let it overshadow recent gains women have made in the military. And they have some ideas on how to prevent similar incidents.

Revelations that hundreds of Marines shared lewd photos of women come as military leaders fight an ongoing battle to change the culture of the Marines.

Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital / va.gov

With the New Year comes a new women veterans’ coordinator for the state of Florida, Army veteran Darlene Scully, and an ambitious agenda for 2017.

In addition to her job reviewing veterans’ claims, Scully took on the position two months ago to be a voice for women vets who currently make up 10 percent of the 1.6 million veterans in Florida.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Five years ago, then Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, set a rather lofty goal --- to eliminate homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015.

“If we don’t put a very ambitious target on the table so that all of us can go to work on it, we won’t get anywhere near close to eliminating homelessness amongst veterans,” Shinseki said in a YouTube video released in May 2010.

Tampa’s Athena House was founded specifically to help homeless women veterans.

Kiersten Downs

Women are the fastest growing group within the veteran population according to the Veterans Health Administration. Yet female vets may not identify themselves as a veteran or use their VA benefits.

Why women vets avoid mentioning their military service is one of several questions being explored by University of South Florida doctoral student Kiersten Downs.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

This week women veterans from throughout Florida will meet in Tampa for the 2nd Annual Women Veterans’ Conference. The goal is to sign them up for available benefits and resources.

This is the second year the state is reaching out to women veterans. The conference has expanded to two days, July 30-31, 2015, at the University of South Florida Tampa campus to accommodate demand.

SMSGT Rex Temple / USAF

Florida has 160,000 women veterans living in the state, yet some of those women do not consider themselves a veteran and many more have never applied for veterans’ benefits.

Matching women veterans with available benefits, resources and support is the goal of the 2nd Annual Women Veterans’ Conference July 30-31, 2015 at the University of South Florida

Department of Veterans Affairs

What happens if you plan an event to honor women veterans and none of them come? That’s a real concern at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 97 in Sarasota. The organization is planning a free event August 30th for the area’s women veterans, but so far, they’re having a tough time generating interest.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

There are more than 160,000 women veterans living and working in Florida.

“Many of them don’t even realize - they’re veterans. They feel they’re not recognized as veterans,” said Alene Tarter, director of benefits and assistance for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) based at Bay Pines.

Larri Gerson used to be one of those women veterans. She now supervises benefits claims at the FDVA.

“I didn’t know I was a veteran for 25 years because I didn’t grow up in a military family,” Gerson said.

Department of Defense

Florida has an estimated 142,000 women veterans and many likely had their eyes on the Pentagon this week.

First, there was the deadline for the services to submit plans on how to integrate women into combat units or explain why women should remain banned. Many women already are serving in units exposed to combat but aren’t officially acknowledged.

And there is more news related to the growing problem of military sexual trauma.

Bay Pines VA Researches Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD

May 13, 2013
VA.gov

Post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma are the top two mental health issues for today’s military and veterans.

And both are the focus of ongoing research at the Bay Pines VA Health Care System in St. Petersburg where Dr. Carol O’Brien established the first residential treatment program in the nation for women who developed PTSD as a result of military sexual trauma.

Photo courtesy of the Gordon family.

National Public Radio featured a St. Petersburg female soldier in its first piece for a series on "Women in Combat."

Reporter Quil Lawrence talks to the father of  Spc. Brittany Gordon who was killed in October 2012 while on a mission to meet with Afghan intelligence, north of Kandahar.

Photo credit: Love My Rifle More Than You/Facebook

It was January 24th, just a few weeks ago, when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he was lifting the ban on women serving in combat.

While many women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan argue they've been in combat for years, they welcomed the news as yet another step in getting rid of gender-based barriers in the military. 

But that announcement didn't automatically open up all roles to women.  Some units, for example the Navy SEALS, can apply for an exemption and  have until 2016 to decide whether or not they want to include women.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Florida women veterans have a new voice in Washington D.C. It’s Larri Gerson, a veteran claims examiner with the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gerson is a new appointee to the federal, VA Committee on Women Veterans which advises VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

She believes her frontline status - as a claims examiner and as a former women veteran coordinator for Florida – earned her appointment to the federal committee.