Women were limited by law to only two percent of the military until 1967, and accordingly made up a proportionally small percent of Veterans. Once that restriction was lifted, and after the transition to the all-volunteer force, women’s representation in the military rose to around 15 percent in the early 1990s, roughly where it is today. The roles and opportunities open to them have also steadily increased in that time frame, culminating this year in the formal opening of all jobs in the military to all qualified women.
Since VA was established when women made up a very small fraction of the population of Veterans, it was not designed to be able to meet their gender-specific health needs. In order to ensure women Veterans would be treated equitably, the Center for Women Veterans was created by law. It has a number of mandated functions, which include promoting the use of VA benefits by women Veterans, who traditionally were less likely to self-identify as Veterans or be aware of their eligibility. The center is also responsible for conducting outreach, disseminating information and serving as a resource center, publicizing the results of medical research of particular significance to women Veterans, and supporting the independent Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.
Our mission includes serving as an advocate for cultural transformation to recognize the service and contributions of military and Veteran women and raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect.
To better fulfill these functions and our mission using tools available today, we recently revamped our website. It now includes a list of news stories updated every business day, useful resources, a list of relevant upcoming events, and information about ongoing and published research. We’re also excited to highlight women when they are featured as VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay and encourage submissions of women to that program to recognize and honor Veterans.
I encourage women Veterans and Servicemembers, as well as their supporters, to check out the new site and sign up for email updates on topics that interest you.
Kayla M. Williams is the director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans.