With the growing presence of women in the US Armed Forces comes the growing need for services for returning women veterans who find themselves unable to get a foothold in civilian life. Far too many female veterans end up homeless, and a new study by the US Department of Labor finds that too many of them feel that shelters and other support systems originally created for male veterans aren't for them. That study, "Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers" is designed to improve understanding and service delivery for these struggling women.
The Military Officers' Association of America highlights stark data from the report that make the dimensions of the problem clear:
Women are now 20% of new recruits, 14% of the military as a whole, and 18% of the National Guard and Reserve. While women represent only 8% of veterans, their risk factors are rising disproportionately to their numbers. Women veterans are at 4 times greater risk of homelessness than their non-veteran civilian counterparts. Over the last decade, the number of homeless women veterans has nearly doubled, with a significant number having children. Further research suggests that 81-93% of female veterans have been exposed to some type of trauma either during their service or prior to joining the military. (Emphasis mine.)
Last year, CBS News reporter Russ Mitchell profiled one woman vet whose life has been shattered by the post-traumatic stress resulting from her military experience. Angela Peacock, a 30-year-old veteran of the Iraq war wondered aloud at the start of the piece, "Why does it have to be so hard? To just have a home? And just have, like, a normal life?" The report goes on to say that at any given night, as many as 6,500 female vets are homeless, many of them affected by PTSD.
But, the issue isn't always PTSD. As Lisa Ftetcher and Felicia Biberica found in this March 24, 2010 ABC News report, sometimes it's a matter of finding affordable childcare while looking for a job.
The new Labor Department guide is part of a comprehensive, multi-agency effort to improve care for active duty service women and veterans according to DoDLive, a blog from the US Department of Defense. That effort includes improved access to health care, and more effective responses to sexual assaults on women in addition to the efforts to address mental health, employment and housing needs.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of vice presiden Joe Biden, have also incorporated support for female vets in their "Joining Forces" initiative to support military families.
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