Shortly after retiring from a 29-year career in the military, U.S. Air Force Veteran Jackie Murdock pulled into a congested parking lot of what was then known as the Dunedin, Fla. Community Based Outpatient Clinic*.   She managed to find what seemed to be the last parking spot, shut off the engine and preceded through the clinic entrance.

Once inside, she quickly became engulfed by the sounds of the busy clinic. As she made her way to check-in for her first appointment, it became very apparent to her that she was the only female patient in the building.

“I remember walking into a very busy clinic and seeing a lot of men.  In fact, I believe I was the only female patient in the building at that particular time,” she said laughing.

“For me personally, this was not a huge issue.  I spent a long career in the military and felt the clinic environment mirrored the military.”

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the clinic, Murdock said one thing stood out to her most about her first experience with the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, and that was the warm reception she received as a new patient to the system.

“I knew that I wanted to receive my health care from VA, but I really did not know what to expect,” Murdock recalled.

“Obviously, at that time amenities for women and services were lacking, but the customer service and care I received on that first day were exceptional.  Because of that, and the collegiality I enjoy being around other Veterans, I felt very comfortable and knew VA was the place for me.”

From her first VA health care experience 12 years ago to her engagement with the system today, Murdock said the VA healthcare system has totally transformed the way it delivers care to female Veterans.  Along the way, she added, the customer service she experienced on her first day has also improved leaps and bounds.

“The physical amenities and services available to women Veterans – a total transformation,” she said.  “And the staff, they are so proud to be able to deliver state-of-the-art care to meet the unique needs of women.  That is very clear to me every time I come to an appointment and makes me feel very comfortable as a patient.”

Two small but significant examples Murdock used to highlight VA’s effort to transform women Veterans health care services and amenities was privacy curtains in exam rooms and baby changing stations in women’s and family restrooms.  In 2004, these facility attributes were few and far between.  Today, privacy curtains along with many other amenities and services are the standard at VA facilities across the nation.

According to retired U.S. Army Colonel and Bay Pines VAHCS Women Veterans Program Manager Julia Adams, providing the very best health care services to women Veterans is very much a priority of VA.

“Our healthcare system, along with other VA health care facilities across the country are very active in enhancing our care and services to women Veterans in order to provide them the high quality care they have earned and deserve,” she said.

Adams said that women Veterans represent one of the fastest growing segments of the Veteran population and women utilizing VA health care across the country has more than doubled over the last 15 years.

Nationally, in 2000, about 160,000 women Veterans used VA health care services.  Today, that number is well over 415,000.

For the Bay Pines VAHCS, women actively using VA health care services has increased more than 13 percent over the last two years.  In 2015 alone, Bay Pines served more than 9,000 women Veterans across southwest Florida.

To meet this growth, Adams said the healthcare system hired and trained doctors and other medical professionals to provide care specifically for women Veterans.  These health care providers are available at all facilities of the Bay Pines VAHCS – C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Bay Pines and the system’s eight community clinics located in Bradenton, Cape Coral, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Sebring.

In addition, Adams said the healthcare system operates two fully staffed Women’s Health Clinics – one at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center and one at the Lee County Healthcare Center located in Cape Coral.

“At all of our sites of care, women Veterans have access to a full complement of primary and specialty care services,” Adams said.  “This includes the full spectrum of gender-specific primary and specialty care services.”

VA offers women Veterans primary care, cancer screenings, maternity care coverage and more.

VA offers women Veterans primary care, cancer screenings, maternity care coverage and more.

Specialty care services available to women Veterans include management and screening of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, glandular disorders, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia as well as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.  Specialty reproductive health care is also available to include maternity care, infertility evaluation and limited treatment; sexual problems, tubal ligation, urinary incontinence, and others.

Other services include cervical cancer screens, breast cancer screens, birth control, preconception counseling, HPV vaccine, and menopausal support.  VA also provides confidential counseling and treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to Military Sexual Trauma at no cost to the Veteran.

“I am not sure the availability of our services is well known to many women exiting the military or even those who have been out of the service for many years. ” Adams said.  “Today’s VA is very committed to women and it is important that we continue to reach out to women Veterans to let them know what we have to offer.”

For Murdock, she has experienced firsthand VA’s commitment to women Veterans and has benefitted from the expansion of services so much so that she now volunteers twice a week with the healthcare system’s Women Veterans Program.

“I think it is important for all women Veterans to know that health services in VA are on an equal footing with anything available on the outside,” she said.

“The care is comprehensive, complete and all inclusive.  We may not have all the pink, fluffy upholstered furniture, but we have what matters.”

To learn more about women Veterans health care services available across the Bay Pines VAHCS, please visit or call the Women Veterans Program Manager Julia Adams at 727-398-6661 extension 14312.

*Editor’s Note:  The Dunedin CBOC relocated to Palm Harbor in 2009.

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Published on Mar. 1, 2016

Estimated reading time is 5.4 min.

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  1. Mary Johanne Layne Bradley March 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I am a veteran with a 100% disability rating for PTSD due to Military Sexual trauma. Since I moved home to Huntington, WV, I have had a terrible time with communications at the Huntington VA. I have automoblile problems, but the PTSD clinic refuses to give me a consult to a therapist or doctor close to my home in the East End of Huntington. I cannot take the VA van, it is full of men. The head of the clinic, Dr. (name redacted), after she found I complained to Robert McDonald, VA secretary, called and said I needed to be admitted to the Huntington VA, so they could determine my depression and physical pain with severe osteo arthritis. Why? I was diagnosed in 1991, and started on medications at that time. I am an RN, I have 2 MS in the Science and Sociology fields, I do volunteer work in medicine, and have a nonprofit thrift shoppe to support animal care. I just need a competent physician-the one at the PTSD clinic there at Huntington VA, Dr. (name redacted), said she didn’t care about me, or about the medications, only about a problem coming back on her name. I haven’t been suicidal, or considered an addictive nature with drug problems, in any fashion, and was appalled at her attitude. The therapist, (name redacted), told me she was a child psychologist. I was stunned, and asked her why she was working with VA PTSD veterans, which she replied there were quite a few of the same problems in both populations. I called my sister, a real child psychologist that evening and asked her about it-why, I wanted to know, and she couldn’t understand it, either. I am confused and feel demeaned, because now Ms. (name redacted) denies she said that. Why would I lie about something like that? And the head of the clinic, (name redacted) wants to admit me to a male dominated hospital? Why? All I have been asking for is a consult to see a therapist nearer my home. Other veterans who stop in my shoppe have told me they are having similar problems with these same people at the PTSD clinic. Can they be investigated? I have never had the kinds of problems at a VA like they are creating. They won’t even prescribe my antidepressant, and I feel as if I am being held hostage -similarly to when I was assaulted in the military, and had no one to turn to. I was on very good pain control with the back spasms, and my hands, as well, before moving here. The progressive disease is so bad, at times I can’t even grasp a doorknob when my hands spasm for 3 hours at a time, as if I have a finger in a hot light socket. Because of the addiction problems here in Huntington, not just I, but many people in pain are not treated. Why are those who are truly in pain, punished because of those who are addicted? What has happened to the Oath physicians take to heal and help pain? This situation, where I have to private pay just for normal physical checkups because the physicians at the VA won’t allow me to be seen in my own community, is a travesty toward veterans who fought for the country they live and are successful in. I am appalled at the fight I have had to go through since 2014, just to try and get help away from the VA, which is a right of any soldier who has served. Please help me to understand what can be done to resolve this problem. I have written many letters, through secure messaging with doctors and therapists, with no recourse but to contact those who help veterans who are fighting for life and a right to good medical care. As a 4 decade medical person, I find the Huntington VA is not a place I would recommend to any soldier, not at this point. Check out the 97% morbid obesity rate among the staff, too. It truly is the elephant in the room. I can provide copies of the letters I have sent, should you care to pursue this issue with me.

  2. Sue Frasier March 5, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    What a crock of baloney. Let’s get a few facts straight here. The former Army base of the Womens Army Corps up until the year 1978, was located at Fort McClellan, Alabama. AND, there was a massive multi-site environmental contamination zone there at this place from the 1950’s to the time the base closed in 1998. AND, it is the Dept. of Veterans Affairs Environmental No-Health Office who is BLOCKING and Opposing all of those toxic exposure service veterans from getting their disability and treatment plan benefits. They agreed to create an official web page in our name at the VA only to turn around and falsify and sabotage all of the reports information that we had given to them in regard to our toxic exposure cause. In short, the veterans are still locked out of the VA benefits system, all 110,000 of them, AND the VA web page they have posted is so untruthful about our cause that we cannot even use it. Add to the fact that I have been inside the VA Hospital care system since the year 1972 and to this minute I am STILL not “rated” by VA Comp and Pen (whatever the shit THAT means), and you start to get the more truthful version of VA’s horrible standing in rising to the needs of our nations women military veterans. It is articles like this one that is incredibly HARMFUL to the rest of us, and always remember that Hitler himself used propaganda types against their own. — Sue Frasier, Army 1970, Lead Activist for the Fort McClellan Veterans of Alabama.

  3. BettyLou Pielin March 5, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Unfortunately, we don’t all have such positive experiences. Yes there have been some but just as many negative experiences. I too have fought for benefits due to MST and have first hand experience with claims being denied. Every denial feels like they are saying, LIAR. How cruel to be so traumatized by such a terrible thing, but they add insult to injury and in the mean time, our military carries on with all these rapist and predators getting away with crimes they would not get away with as civilians.

    • Katrina Taravella March 7, 2016 at 8:27 am

      I have had a good experience at the VA hospital in Tampa (Bruce B. Downs). I was diagnosed with PTSD due to MST while I was in the military in 1990 ( I was only 18 yrs. old). When I got out in 1997, they service-connected me only 30% for it. I put it in a claim for an increase and the PTSD due to MST was REMOVED, and instead they decided that my anxieties were connected to my back pain. How can someone in the regional office just remove it like it never happened?

  4. Terri Hanna March 4, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Mary, Have you gotten a Patient Advocate from one of the service organizations such as the VFW or American Legion? I had the best luck with the DAV and my PA is the best. Remember, the regional offices work for the VA, a Patient Advocate works for you and knows the ins and outs of the system. I have service-connected knee problems also.

  5. Arlene Howard March 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Not every VA treat women veterans like Bay Pines

  6. Mary E. Bowman March 4, 2016 at 11:35 am

    If the V.A. really cares how are they able to sleep when they cheat vets out of disability? I got 10% per knee when I was released from Air Force in 1979. I could walk but it caused a lot of pain. Now I am on constant pain meds. and in a wheelchair. Unable to walk and I have been fighting for years to up my disability to 100%. Yet they deny me time after time.
    How is that fair? Please let me know how I’m supposed to get the men I deal with tell me it’s all in my head.

    Mary E. Bowman

Comments are closed.

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