Female Vet Health Care Focus of Tuscaloosa Meeting

Feb 18, 2013

The quality of health care for female veterans will be the highlight at a town hall meeting in Tuscaloosa tonight. The American Legion is hosting the event. It’s the country’s largest organization of war-time veterans. Officials say women now make up about 15 percent of the country’s service members. About 340,000 women veterans are currently enrolled in the VA health-care system, and officials say they expect that number to keep growing. Roscoe Butler is a field representative with the American Legion.

(Butler) “We notice that there are increasingly more and more women who are entering into service. And when they get out, they’re going to be looking to the VA to provide their health care. And so we want to make sure that the VA health facilities have the appropriate gender-specific service to meet the needs of our women veterans when they return home.”

(Martin) “The U.S. military recently lifted a ban on women in combat roles. How will this decision affect health care for women veterans?”

(Butler) “It will require the VA to be able to provide the…Well, they’ll have to be able to provide the services needed to meet the increasing number of veterans being discharged from military service. Particularly, if they’re going into combat, PTSD, military sexual trauma, all of those key health issues that face women when they’re in service will have to be addressed when they return home.”

(Martin) “Representatives from the Legion’s System Worth Saving (SWS) Task Force are expected to attend the town hall meeting. Can you talk about their role in today’s military health care system and what they’ll be doing in Tuscaloosa?”

(Butler) “Well, our System Worth Saving Task Force will be visiting the various executive leadership team and key staff at the medical center where we’ll be asking them specific questions related to the level of care and services they provide to women veterans. Also, we’ll take what we learned from our town hall meeting and we’ll follow up with those individuals in regard to whatever we learned and share that information with the executive leadership. And the purpose, let me mention, the purpose of this is not an adversarial-type meeting. But, it’s to aid the VA in getting the resources they need because we can speak on their behalf to members of Congress and so forth to advocate for additional resources and benefits to provide for veterans.”

(Martin) “What are usually the criticisms people have for the VA health care system and how they think it should be improved?”

(Butler) “Access has been an issue. Mental health services is another issue. And, while veterans are pleased with the overall quality of care that VA provides, there are concerns with the wait time veterans have to wait to obtain appointments. Also, the scheduling problems when they call into the medical center to schedule appointments.”

(Martin) “Where else will you be taking this conversation?”

(Butler) “Upcoming, we have a couple more site visits. Coatesville, Pennsylvania. This week, we’re out at Salem, West Virginia. We also have a team in Los Vegas at the medical center there. And so, as we wrap up our site visits we will meet to go over all of the site visit locations to prepare for our annual report for submission to Congress.”