1 WOMEN VETERANS: THE LONG. JOURNEY HOME. Disclaimer: Photos, unless otherwise noted, are DoD images released to the public. Quotations throughout the report may not be directly related to people in the photographs. Foreword DAV ( disabled American Veterans) is pleased to present this unprecedented report: WOMEN Veterans: The Long JOURNEY Home, a comprehensive study of the many challenges WOMEN face when they leave military service. DAV commissioned and produced this report to highlight the role of WOMEN in the military, particularly over the past decade of war; to explore the issues facing WOMEN as they transition from military to civilian life; and to chronicle the unique challenges they face and sacrifices they make, which are little understood and rarely recognized.
2 Our overarching goal is to document existing gaps in federal programs and services and spur policy changes to fill them. The number of WOMEN in the military today and their evolving role in our national defense continue to rise. Although WOMEN in uniform have long served with honor and courage in combat environments, changes in Department of Defense (DoD) policy have now opened military occupational specialties previously closed to them, presenting a new series of challenges for WOMEN veterans. As WOMEN complete their military service and begin their transitions home, they embark on a JOURNEY .
3 As vividly depicted in this report, the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs (VA) and Labor (DoL) are also on an unfinished JOURNEY themselves in terms of fostering and adapting programs and policies to support WOMEN service members returning to civilian life. These and other federal agencies must work collaboratively if WOMEN are to have timely and seamless access to high quality medical care, mental health programs and a full array of readjustment benefits. This report details programs throughout the federal government that desperately need adaptation to better assist WOMEN veterans achieve educational goals, secure employment, and achieve successful careers.
4 We believe the recommendations in this report can help WOMEN who served make a smoother transition home to reestablish their relationships with children, spouses, extended families, friends, employers and communities. The stories and statistics that support this report make clear that WOMEN veterans face a homecoming that is remarkably different than their male counterparts. As a nation we need to fully recognize their contributions and sacrifices we owe them this respect and opportunity to heal and successfully transition home. Our nation must address and change the culture that ignores or minimizes WOMEN 's service and their contribution to our military mission, so that they too can fully benefit from the array of services that have been established for veterans, including for those who served in combat theaters and other hardship deployments.
5 Today, WOMEN represent the fastest growing group of veterans who are enrolling in VA health care. More WOMEN serving, and many more serving in the future, mean that DoD and VA programs historically focused almost exclusively toward the needs of men must change and adapt; that change must begin now and it must be pursued with urgency. DAV pledges to be an agent for this change, and to travel the road home alongside all WOMEN who proudly volunteer and serve our nation with honor and distinction. Please join us in this JOURNEY . J. MARC BURGESS GARRY J.
6 AUGUSTINE. National Adjutant and Washington Executive Director Chief Executive Officer, DAV National Service and Legislative Headquarters, DAV. 1. Executive Summary their service. WOMEN veterans tend to be younger than men and are less likely to use VA benefits. WOMEN who served our country in the military are strong WOMEN have patrolled the and heroic but their contributions have been underrecognized, even by the WOMEN themselves. The challenges of readjust- streets of Fallujah and Kandahar, ment to post-military life affect WOMEN differently than men and they have driven in convoys on should receive attention from their local communities and the desert roads and mountain passes, federal government that is at least comparable to that received by men.
7 The unique needs of WOMEN veterans are varied and they have deployed with Special complex, spanning the areas of health care, eradication of sex- Forces in Afghanistan on cultural ual assault, employment, finance, housing, and social issues. One of the most persistent problems is a military and veterans'. support teams, they have climbed culture that is not perceived as welcoming to WOMEN and does into the cockpits of fighter jets and not afford them equal consideration. VA's WOMEN Veterans'. out of the bloody rubble after IED Task Force noted the need for culture change across VA to reverse the enduring perception that a woman who comes to explosions.
8 Many have begun their VA for services is not a veteran herself, but a male veteran's long JOURNEY home. The question wife, mother, or daughter. Our nation does not yet adequately recognize and celebrate the contributions of WOMEN in military we ask in this report is service, treat them with dignity and respect, or promote their successful transition to civilian life. This is a foundational issue Will they walk alone? and will be one of the most critical but difficult to address. We identified serious gaps in every aspect of the programs that serve WOMEN , including health care, employment, finance, housing, social issues and the eradication of sexual assault.
9 The vast majority of these deficiencies result from a disregard for the differing needs of WOMEN veterans and a focusing on the 80 percent solution for men who dominate in both numbers WOMEN have volunteered to serve in the military and public consciousness. The recent dramatic increase in since the American Revolution. Today they constitute approx- reporting of military sexual trauma is an illustration of problems imately 20 percent of new recruits, percent of the and solutions that require radical change in the culture of the million active duty component and 18 percent of the 850,000 Armed Forces.
10 Reserve component. Almost 280,000 WOMEN have served Post-9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the number of male Many WOMEN who return from deployment are made veterans is expected to decline by 2020, the number of wom- stronger by their experiences but a significant number have en veterans is expected to grow dramatically, to 11 percent of difficulty with transition and need support for health care, the veteran population. employment, finance, housing and social issues. With the withdrawal of ground forces from Iraq and the drawdown in Because of their role in the military and society, WOMEN Afghanistan, government and the public are already turning have unique transition challenges.