Women in War

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

We've heard for the last several years that more and more women are facing combat situations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And suffering from many of the same problems as men when they get home... PTSD, homelessness, trouble adjusting to civilian life. Still, when I first read that "an estimated 8,000 female veterans are homeless in the US" I thought it was a typo. It's not. Many veterans services just aren't set up to handle the growing number of female vets. Things are changing, though, and women are a priority for the VA. Today, we'll talk with Antoinette Scott, a veteran of the war in Iraq, and with two advocates for women veterans. If you're a woman who served, what was it like for you when you came home?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

How can anyone say Bush is supporting the troops if he's cut the VA fund every year in office. Bush sees are troops as disposable pawns with no regard to their health and welfare. Seems republicans always see people as disposable widgets.

If you think this war is close to over then why has the DOD ordered 18,000 MRATS which won't be delivered until 2012.

This war on terror and the way it's being administrated is set up to never finish giving the military complex all this money and is really a terrible way of driving the economy at the expense of peoples lives for profit. Not to even mention Chaney's energy policy to flood the market with cheap oil by taking over a middle eastern country.

Sent by Buster Hyman | 2:27 PM | 7-24-2007

Hearing that woman get raped while serving and command doing nothing about it needs to change. I see a good unwritten law to solve the problem. Anyone you know that is raping woman can be shot by the woman without being prosecuted. Either that or publicly raping the man in from of his company.
Just like in Vietnam, where some people leading were shot in the back or had a hand grenade roll in their tent seems would cut out this behavior.

Sent by Buster Hyman | 2:37 PM | 7-24-2007

BPW/USA (Business & Professional Women) has a program called Women Joining Forces to help all women veterans at any level of employment skills re-enter the civilian workforce. The support of other working women is offered along with a one year complementary membership in BPW. Check the website bpwusa.org for more information.

Sent by Linda Hauge | 2:41 PM | 7-24-2007

On the topic of homeless veterans, I'm surprised more aren't employed through civil service where veterans points seem to provide a significant "in" (even if only on a seasonal basis), sometimes in the absence of much job-related experience.

Sent by Ryan Byerly | 6:43 PM | 7-24-2007

Whenever you have had Male Servicemen veterans on your show, they are often lauded praises of gratitude for their heroism and service by your callers. I did not hear the same for these brave and heroic female servicewomen during their interview, subconsciously we still diminish the way we look at these remarkable women. We've still a long way to go.

Sent by Jason R. Mihaere | 11:23 PM | 7-29-2007

As a female and Navy Veteran, women are nothing but whiners. Not all of them but a lot of them are. I have seen my share of women who try to use the "I'm a woman and I can't do that" phrase. If you want to be treated equal and go into a field that has mostly men then do the job and quit complaining about the job. If you can't do it then don't go into that field. Don't play the "I'm a woman" card. Also if you go into a field that isn't a high command out in the civilian world then get a degree while you are in so when you get out you will have something to fall back on. It's just like in a civilian job...if you work at McDonalds and don't have any education then you won't get ahead in life. As far as the PTSD in women...women are more emotional then men. Every where in the world women and men go through trauma and it affects their lives. I was in a motorcycle accident last year when a car pulled out in front of me and I was laid up for almost 5 months. After it happened I didn't want to get on a bike at all. But I did and I still have flash backs whenever a car pulls out or even when a car pulls up to the road to pull out. I keep thinking...is that car going to keep going? Will it stop?

Sent by Anita Zahand | 9:54 PM | 8-6-2007

I served as a combat journalist for 6 years in the Navy during the 80's. Military women are never considered combat veterans despite serving with men and never seeming to live up to the military's male expectations.

I'm 100% Permanent & Total since 1990 for Severe Anxiety/PTSD; the VAMC Muskogee REFUSES to treat ANY of my health conditions including PTSD. I've had male therapists and doctors from the VA actually call me and tell me that they DON'T treat female veterans.

I've had 10 hospitalizations and 6 major surgeries since 1990. The VAMC elected NOT to treat me, made excuses, threats and claimed they were not able to treat me because I AM a female veteran.

The PTSD team at the VA is restricted to ONLY male veterans. The VA hospital in Muskogee has placed a "do not pay" order on my file for all private claims.

From 2003 to 2005, I had 5 surgeries done privately via admission to private ER/ICU via ambulance due to ACUTE kidney failure (my blood pressure was 56/40 and my veins were flat-lined). Several emergency surgeries and massive blood clotting left me bedridden for months. I couldn't even stand or walk without extreme pain.

My medical bills have totaled over $100,000. The VA business office refused all claims except for a partial payment (of only $7,000) to the local hospital after 4 appeals. The VA claims that my total kidney failure, blood clots and increased PTSD are/were all non-urgent.

I've had to have a surgically implanted permanent filter in my aorta to provide minimal protection from future embolisms traveling to my lungs or heart. I've been on the blood thinner, Coumadin for the past 4 years and the VA has not done any lab work for the past 15 months.

Meanwhile, my husband has paid $80,000 towards my medical bills (from an inheritance and I've had to get a 2nd mortgage on my home for $50,000 to the remaining private hospital bills.

My double mortgages along with mounting medical/prescriptions have cost me 75% of my disability income. With no disposable income and expenses associated with my autistic son...this forces me to live on credit cards for my food and weekly psychotherapy sessions.

The VA's severe neglect of my health care has led to my poor health and the permanent loss of my right kidney. The chief of psychiatry, Dr. Koduri has threatened to personally sue me if I expose this neglectful treatment.

I need some sort of help with my diminishing health before I end up on dialysis and/or end up homeless myself. I'm close to bankruptcy and foreclosure on my home.

Why does the VA treat female veterans like this? Many of the female veterans I've met, have died from the VA's neglect. I don't want to be another statistic (victim of neglect). How many more years must I suffer before this country wakes up to this inhumane and insufficient medical and mental health care that WE female veterans experience!!

Sent by BF | 1:32 AM | 8-7-2007

This comment is in reference to the comment made by Anita Zahand.
First, of all...what planet do you come from? GET REAL!!!

There are more than 350,000 female military members "at war" overseas. These brave women work alongside and just as hard as the men. And the men whom they depend on...are the same men often accused of traumatizing these women (who are often EDUCATED reservists who must leave behind their children and husbands on short notice).

Note: NOT all women with PTSD are raped. Trauma is trauma whether it's witnessing violence, being harassed or even if it's a minor car accident. PTSD causes continual states of hyper-alertness and anxiety that over the years can affect body functioning 'IF IGNORED'.

Fact: no man can ever understand what it's like for a MOTHER to leave her children and not knowing if they'll ever return back from COMBAT to see them.

Let me ask you how long you served in the military and WHERE have you served???

I served 6 years as a well educated journalist (I have a MA in psychology), and I worked in a Public Affairs Office directly under the CO of the base with ALL women. We all worked 10 to 15 hour shifts. How would you like it, if your division officer ordered you to shoot on the rifle range, buff floors and run PT at 8 months pregnant. I had a limited duty orders. But the LT ignored them!!! I nearly lost my son and my own life due to toxemia and post surgical complications.

As far as these women YOU are referring to...LADY, it doesn't matter what type of job or education that a military woman has. When women work with good leadership and comrades of respectable attitudes, then they will not have the unwanted results that many military women who HAVE been traumatized by their experiences. TRAUMA HAPPENS NO MATTER WHAT YOUR EDUCATION LEVEL!!!

You know, perhaps you should return to school yourself and learn more about the REAL female veterans and active duty women YOU'RE disrespecting!!

Lastly, your motorcycle accident doesn't compare to the level of TRAUMA that a female IN COMBAT who has SURVIVED live rounds, sniper attacks, bombings and have been witnesses the carnage of WAR!!!

Signed a real PTSD SURVIVOR

Sent by Betty Frost | 2:30 PM | 8-7-2007

AS A VET FROM THE FIRST GULF WAR ,I AM ONE WHO HAS BEEN TURNING CIRCLES AROUND THESE HEALTH CARE ISSUES. AFTER BEING SENT TO A PRIVATE OB/GYN BY THE VA THEN TO A OB/GYN SPECIALIST FOR CANCER THEN AFTER TWO SURGIES AND THE WHOLE TIME USED MY EMPLOYEERS INS AND THE CO-PAYMENTS I PAID. WE NEED TO LOOK AT THE SYSTEM. IAM ONE WHO COULD BE HOMELESS BUT KEEP BANGING MY HEAD AGINEST A WALL TO KEEP MY HEAD ABOVE WATER, IT IS A CRYING SHAME THAT FEMALE VETS CANT SEEM TO GET ANY BENFITS FOR ANYTHING UNLESS YOU HAVE A GOOD JOB AND GREAT INS. OUT OF THE MILTARY EVERYDAY I WONDER IF IAM NORMAL, WHAT EVER THAT IS OR JUST STAYING A-FLOAT BECAUSE I KNOW PTSD IS LOOKING ME IN THE EYE EVERYDAY. OH DID I MEANTION THE VA CLOSED THE HOSPITAL IN LAS VEGAS. I DONT HAVE HEALTH CARE ON THE JOB I HAVE AND OWE FOR MY BLOOD PRESSURE MEDS, A COUPLE HUNDRED DOLLARS NOW, I DO SEE THE DOC WHEN IAM SICK , BUT WHY IS IT SO HARD TO GET ANYBODY TO SAY FEMALE VETS HAVE PROBLEMS TOO, GIVE US THE HELP WE NEED!! SIGNED PTSD/CANCER SURVIVOR STILL FIGHTING

Sent by JEANENE STRAITZ | 6:36 PM | 8-7-2007

As a medically retired Air Force veteran I agree with the lack of care that is provided to women veterans. When I was medically retired from the military back in 1992 I was left to fend for myself in order to get services from the VA and military facilities.
I had spent 10 years in the Air Force. I served with great pride and I served my profession proudly. I was deployed during Desert Storm and left my 4 year old daughter behind after receiving 24 hours notice for deployment. Then, when I returned from deployment I found out I was sick. When the medical board finalized my case I was given 2 weeks notice to be out of the military. At that point I found myself jobless, homeless (because I lived in base housing) and very sick. I returned to my hometown in order to be close to
family, that is when the real challenge began. I was born and raised in a small town, when I would go to veterans organizations/briefings to get help in obtaining medical care for my on going medical problem, for which I was medically retired, I was met with the narrow mindedness of the system. I was asked on numerous occasions why I was even there. The men that ran these groups actually had the nerve to ask me where "my husband was" I would always reply "why does it matter" I would then proceed to point out to them that I was the veteran and that I was a medically retired war time veteran just like many of them. I actually had a gentleman (and I will use this term lightly) ask me what I was worried about because I was lucky enough to be able to live off of my husband. (Not that it mattered but I was and still am a single parent, raising my family on one income, mine and mine alone)
After leaving the military community, where there was a support group available to help a person receive the care that is needed, and entering in to a system that seems to be set up for "men only" this type of mentality is stressful, especially when a person is trying to seek medical care.
I was left to swim around in a system and a mind set that favored men. I finally ended up seeking care through my military benefits instead of through the VA. I spent a year traveling 5 hours away (the closest military base) seeking medical care.
In the last few years I have been followed medically by the VA, but that is only because I recently started to work for them. Although working for the VA has brought to light, in my eyes the shortcomings in the system pertaining to women.
I can say from experience that the VA, at least the one that I am employed at, does provide very good care if you are male. I will also admit that the care provided to women seems to be lacking. The issues that relate to women ARE different from the ones that pertain to men and I feel that the VA system has not responded fast enough to the needs of women. The mentality within the system seems to still be geared towards men. I realize that since the majority of the patients that are seen at the VA our men that the focus could be slanted in that direction, however with approx. 50% of todays military being women the system had better catch up quickly. Female vets will quickly dominate the system and the care had better be taken seriously.
Unfortunately there are still many narrow minded people out there that seem to think the same way as the write Anita, I have run in to many of them in the course of my life. In fact, I run in to at least one in my every day dealings with people, the majority of them are men though. Obviously this writer has not needed assistance since she has been out of the military, for if she did she would probably have changed written something quite different. All I can say to her is, congratulations you are lucky I am happy for you that your life has turned out well. As I read her comments she seems to be very bitter about something and this is not the appropriate forum to convey your bitterness, this is a chance to put like minds together and hopefully move towards change in a system that has been in place for decades. YOUR TYPE OF THINKING IS WHAT HAS MADE THE SYSTEM THE WAY IT IS.
The other writers are correct women have served in the military and they have served proudly. For many years they have been overlooked. Their issues should not be overlooked. Their problems are no less serious than that of a mans. It is high time that someone starts to listen.

Signed Disabled Desert Storm Vet
(USAF Ret)
And PROUD of IT

Sent by Tina | 11:17 PM | 8-7-2007

In an area of conflict, there is no place to call 911. A woman must be aware that any male freind or foe might wish to prey upon her. I always to measures not to be caught alone. The buddy system save me many occasions. Sometimes is was another female other times is was a male from another unit to observe (watch my back). On a couple of missions, my command provided my with a body guard and on other missions, I told another US male solider he would be finanical compensated by me, if he would come to my aid in physical conflict. I can always get cash, to avoid an sexual aggressive injury. The majority of GI treated this petite female army girl well. it was the one out of 100 guys that did not. I gave 24 years in the service and I would continue if was not for injury (vehicle related).

Sent by Venus Hammack | 9:19 PM | 8-8-2007

Gosh, i just found this blog. I was a homeless female veteran with a child. My story is interesting. I know a lot of others. I get benefits now, but it was a long road.

Sent by Tara Jones | 5:54 PM | 8-10-2007

I served 24 years to the USCGR and was called up twice for active duty leaving children with relatives. It is different for us forever in or out. Struggling to find my place inside and never being recognized when retired.Just recently they had Veterans Day recognition at my son's elementary school...the other Vets " men " were recognized but I always have to explain my full service like they don't believe me....24 years sacrifice...college set aside ,Years of weekends,active duties, jobs given up, time with family...that is the hardest to leave our children behind. I met a woman in the Service down in Galveston whom is writing a book of our stories how we are treated differently...I'm glad to participate in this dialogue ...it needs to be heard.I still love the Coast Guard and it was the best and most exciting things that I will ever do in my lifetime...I just don't have the buddies like the guys do.My sister and mom also served in the Coast Guard Reserve...we have a unique and proud history to share...if anyone ever cares to ask...Debbie Butynski

Sent by USCGR 1st Class Petty Officer Deborah Butynski | 4:35 PM | 8-12-2007

I am a service disabled veteran with numerous medical issues (PTSD, stroke, hypertension, heart murmur, chronic migraine headaches, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue, anemia and so forth ). All of these medical conditions were diagnosed and well -documented in my military medical record before being honorably discharged from the United States Navy in March 2001. I requested a Physical evaluation board but was denied.
The attending military physician wrote this comment on my final physical: Patient has multiple medical issues ??? separated 1 March 01 to follow up with VA. Discussed issues with Personnel Support Detachment and Patient Admin of NNMC Bethesda, since patient is officer, had to be separated 1 March 01. Will have patient follow up at VA for above issues.
I appealed the discharge to the Board of Corrections for the Navy, but was again denied. I followed up with VA and was granted 100 percent disability. Needless to say since March 2001, I have been in and out of emergency rooms, hospitals, and VA medical clinics.
Also, I have not been able to stay employed because of service connected medical issues.
I said of this to say that any woman veteran should seek medical care for chronic conditions before she leaves the military service.
I served for 15 years in the United States Navy with 10 of those years as a Navy Chaplain. I was an advocate for some and a listening ear for others. Now I am a 51 year old woman who needs an advocate.
The contributions of military women are many and the sacrifices are even greater.

Bsmarshall23@nc.rr.com

Barbara Summey Marshall

Sent by Barbara Summey Marshall | 12:23 AM | 8-21-2007

I am a disabled woman veteran who wants to help other disabled women veterans. I have started an outreach agency in Fayetteville, North Carolina called Steps & Stages: A Disabled Women Veterans' Resource Agency. This agency will provide support services for homeless female veterans and their families, financial counseling, domestic violence prevention, grief and loss counseling, transportation services and child care. In addition, I will have a 24 hour Counselor on call line for female veterans who need help with pressing issues. Pending completion, the website will be www.stepsnstages.com.

Barbara Summey Marshall

Bmarshall23@nc.rr.com

Sent by Barbara Summey Marshall | 12:58 AM | 8-21-2007

I had no idea it was that bad. My sincerest admiration and support to all you military women, and may you get these things you so well deserve.

Sent by Anna | 7:22 PM | 8-27-2007

I think that if a woman chooses to serve our country we should support her every step of the way.

Sent by Claire | 12:18 PM | 8-28-2007

when speaking of women issues nobody ever bring up the dangerous of the rifle range while a women is pregnant any views?

Sent by toy | 9:17 PM | 2-8-2008

TO ALL OF YOU WHO POSTED HERE...WHO KNOW THE TRUTH WHILE SERVING HONORABLY TO OUR COUNTRY AND ESPECIALLY TO THE ONES WHO'VE DONE TIME IN A COMBAT ZONE!!! GOD SPEED AND THANK YOU!

Sent by LESA M. VALE, COL. (RET.) | 12:46 PM | 5-1-2008

I am a man and I have to say it is absolutely disgraceful the way that women vets seem to be treated. They have served just like any other and a figure of 8,000 homeless vets considering the fact that they are a minority in the forces is a real eye opener.

Shame on the policy makers that have made this so.

Sent by Doug Grundy | 3:15 PM | 7-28-2008

Funny, when I served, I saw just as many MALE whiners. It matters not if a woman or man whines. They are their to serve, when others are NOT. Some have the brains, while others do not. Some have the brawn, while others do not. I think it is a bit idiotic for anyone to think our army is strictly about on or the other. Intelligence is super important in war and more so in this age.

Sent by Jenine DiConti | 5:14 PM | 8-30-2008