The woman veteran population has tripled in the last two years and a steady increase is expected over the next year.
With more women serving in the military and in more varied roles than any other era in military history, VA stands ready to support those women when the need arises. Currently, more than 7,700 women Veterans receive their care at VA North Texas.
Navy Veteran Jennifer Scott is in that number.
Jennifer enjoyed an exciting and challenging career in the U.S. Navy as a paralegal. After discharge, she chose another career. She maximized her VA educational benefits through both the G.I. Bill and the vocational rehabilitation program. Jennifer now works as a high school social studies teacher for at-risk students.
During the time between Jennifer's release from the military and now, she was faced with some triumphs and some heart breaks. She is a proud wife and mother of three daughters, two of which came after a loss.
In April 2009, Jennifer's first born biological daughter passed away. "She took a nap and never woke up," said Jennifer.
"It was extremely hard in the beginning," Jennifer said. In fact, she didn't want any more children. When Jennifer found out she was pregnant again, she was happy, but still confused and sometimes upset. "I had a lot of mixed emotions. I thank God, my husband and the Women Veterans Program for all the support."
As a patient for 10 years, Jennifer has seen changes in how VA North Texas has evolved.
"When I first came here [VA North Texas], I had to get a referral every time I needed to see a specialist in women's health. It would sometimes take months to get an appointment," Jennifer said. "Now I can call and usually get in as early as one week."
Jennifer likes being able to utilize her health care benefits in a "one-stop" setting. Other than prenatal care and child birth, women Veterans are able to get all of their care at one location. VA allows soon-to-be moms to choose their own obstetrician and hospital for their delivery and VA also pays for it.
The health care VA provides is not just limited to physical needs.
Sonya Salters works as a program analyst for the Women Veterans Health Program. She works with other team members and assists female Veterans on how to access program benefits. Her assistance frequently goes beyond what's required as part of the job.
"Serving as an advocate for women Veterans is equally challenging and rewarding. With the rapid growth of this population and persistent influx of women accessing the system, we strive to ensure that the services we provide meet, if not exceed, their unique needs," Sonya said. "Being in a position to coordinate care and facilitate change has been an essential part of giving them the care they deserve."
Jennifer enrolled for VA health care benefits from the advice of another Veteran and she has never looked back. Her story represents one of many to be told.
The services provided for women Veterans include primary care, well woman exams, gynecological care and reproductive health, as well as management of mental health issues. Services also consist of preventive screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, mammograms and cervical cancer, just to name a few. Nutrition and dietary needs and also psychosocial issues that impact women's health are among other services provided.
If you are a woman Veteran and would like more information about the Women's Veterans Health Program, call (214) 857-1938 or (214) 929-6762 or visit http://www.northtexas.va.gov/services/women.asp.