There’s been a lot of chatter out in the “mediasphere” lately about women’s health care at VA. Being an employee not just of VA, but of the Veterans Health Administration, my ears perk up a bit when I catch wind of such content, and get a bit of a sting when it has less than positive overtones.
Recently, sitting at home, watching Gangster Squad with my wife, because I am romantic that way (Valentine’s Day coming up soon, gentlemen), I experienced both those things. People were dogging on my VA. My VA employees and fellow coworkers. Satire and comedy make for great entertainment, but I couldn’t help but get a bit hot under the collar.
And with that in mind, I remembered some of my Army training, and how Soldiers (Sailors, Airmen, Marines and all uniformed military, I’m sure) are trained to be part of the solution ¬– not part of the problem – lead, follow or get out of the way. I personally believe that our patients are the best in the world. And our employees agree: when you criticize VA, you criticize every employee, and that is not good for Veterans or provider recruitment. So I decided to do some investigating of my own.
I caused quite the stir among my nurse co-workers whom I questioned for this post. They were none too pleased themselves. I actually got the chills reading one of the responses from a VA nurse I talked to, who shared what VA has been doing since 2010 to advance our capabilities in women’s health. Not because someone found us to be short somewhere, but that we have to absorb so much shame and ridicule because we are a government entity.
Did you know that female Veteran VA health care users more than doubled, from 159,000 in 2000 to 390,000 in 2013? Or that VA is the national leader in providing mammograms? Military Sexual Trauma (MST) presents a wholly unique challenge to our ranks, and to help address this, VA has established MST Coordinators to assist Veterans filing disability claims related to MST.
Prosthetics presents a significant issue to our female Veterans, and we’re making progress there too. I recall my experience filming the prosthetics lab in Las Vegas and meeting the chief, himself a Veteran with a device. He showed us the imagery machine that scans an exact replica of an amputee’s “residual limb,” flips it and prints an exact replica. His team and he makes custom devices from scratch. I was amazed and impressed to learn about how we are treating our Veterans and the passion of our employees as they do their work. Just watch his story. And don’t miss another dedicated employee, VA Nurse Riah Takia, who tells us about her experiences of helping to meet the specialized needs of women.
A recent article in The Washington Post quotes Dr. Patricia Hayes, VA’s chief consultant for Women Veterans Health:
“‘It’s not your father’s VA – it really isn’t,’ Hayes said in an interview. She added: ‘We have geared up and are gearing up. But we have a lot of catching up to do.’
“Hayes said agency officials are working hard to re-educate staff and change the male-dominated culture, with campaigns that include posters and videos that say, ‘This is not your father’s VA,’ and pictures of women in combat gear with the slogan, ‘Not every GI is a Joe.’
“She said VA also has opened a women’s call center [Women Veterans Hotline] so staff can be more proactive.”
I appreciate the attention on VA, and any improvement, funding, volunteering or donations will be welcomed by all. What I really appreciate is providers applying to work at VA and being proud to do so!
Good leaders lead from the front. And with the hard work and dedication of our employees, VA will be in that position on women’s health care as well. We have been, are and will continue to make advancements in the field.
At VA, we need quality employees, quality providers, volunteers and support for our Veterans. If you want to talk about VA, learn about VA… spend a few hours volunteering. Or, you can Join VA and work to help us continue to provide solutions to our female Veterans. There’s the salary, the benefits and such. But there is a mission you’ll serve and a goal that you’ll be striving to attain, that the 14th president of the United States, one Abraham Lincoln, established in his second inaugural address. It’s just that, “him who shall have borne the battle,” is a bigger field now.