Thursday, May 6, 2010

Great news for women in the military

Actually, this is great news for all veterans. Yesterday, President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which expands health care services for veterans.

Among other things, the legislation:
  • Expands mental health and counseling services to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including National Guardsmen and reservists.
    Allows the VA to use hospitals outside the VA network to treat more returning soldiers suffering from brain injuries
  • Eliminates co-payments for "catastrophically disabled" veterans
  • Increases housing and transportation assistance for veterans living far from hospitals in rural areas
  • Expand support for homeless veterans
  • Gives caregivers a stipend to care for a severely injured veteran from Afghanistan or Iraq. They also will receive lodging allowances and get the training they need to care for their loved ones. (via)
But look what it does for women (and do read this whole article*):
  • Requires the VA to train mental health professionals in caring for the 1 in 5 military women who have survived sexual trauma, which increases the risk of mental health issues like PTSD by nearly 60 percent.
  • Authorizes research on the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on women's physical, mental and reproductive health.
  • Requires a comprehensive assessment of the unique barriers to care that women face.
  • Includes maternity care for newborn children. (via)
  • Allows the VA to launch a pilot program to provide child care for veterans receiving intensive medical care (this obviously is not limited to women, but I'm sure would help a number of women).
This is all good stuff. Some of it could be better though -- for instance, the newborn care? According to this article, the VA will provide "up to seven days of care for newborn children of women veterans for the first time in history." Seven days? What if your child needs more than seven days of care? Does something else cover that? (How does that work?) And the sexual assault problem: Something has to be done about this. I understand that wouldn't be part of this legislation, and by all means actually helping the women who have been assaulted is a Good Thing, but it would be Even Better if they weren't assaulted in the first place. For more on this, click here and here.

*I strongly dislike that this article starts off with the phrase "America's daughters," as if these aren't grown women. And to me, "daughters" kind of implies that they need to be protected. It's sort of patronizing. "America's daughters have been serving in the U.S. military for centuries ..." What's wrong with "Women have been serving ..."? And no, "America's sons" is no better, and does anyone even use that anyway?

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