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VA honors women Veterans

Since the Revolutionary War, more than 3 million women have served and sacrificed in times of war, even before the military fully recognized their service. Women have continued to play crucial roles in the defense of the United States in each conflict.

It wasn’t until 1948 when President Harry S. Truman signed into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which allowed—for the first time—women to serve as regular members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Women have served in times of war since the Revolutionary War

Today, there are over 350,000 active service women and 2 million female Veterans in the U.S., the highest number in history.

“Many efforts have been implemented to ensure Women Veterans not only receive VA benefits, but also receive the right type of benefits tailored to their unique needs,” said Ashley Cain, Battle Creek VA maternity care coordinator and Women’s Health nurse navigator. “Women have committed themselves to the defense of America and we are committed to providing them the care and benefits.”

Women Veterans’ health care benefits

Cain lists some of the health care benefits VA delivers to women Veterans, including reproductive health, mental health, military sexual trauma care, prenatal care, laboratory work, genetic screenings, imaging and labor/delivery services, as well as maternity and post-partum care services.

For historical context, women provided supportive roles mainly in medical and clerical services in World War I, and their contributions would greatly increase during World War II. About 34,000 women served during World War II in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The Army only allowed women to serve as nurses. In 1971, women made up just 1% of the military services. Ten years later, it was 8.5%. However, women at that time were not allowed to serve in combat military occupational specialties like infantry, artillery and combat aviation.

As society continues to change and open more opportunities for women, additional roles have also become more available within the military. By 2016, the Department of Defense effectively removed all restrictions for women serving in the military and women now represent the fastest growing population of Veterans. This results in Veteran health care continuously examining what needs to be changed and what needs to be added.

“They are here and we are here to serve them.”

“Collaboration is another key component to providing the best care we can. We understand we may not be able to fulfil all their needs under our roof, so we take pride in our collaborations with other VA and community health partners to meet any needs our women may have. The importance is that they are equal, they are here and we’re here to serve them,” said Heather Morgan, Battle Creek VA Women Veterans program manager.

Women have played crucial roles in the defense of the United States in every conflict

In addition to services listed above available to women Veterans, Morgan also oversees efforts ensuring that female Veterans are aware of clinical services, such as cervical cancer screening, breast cancer screening, awareness of the Service ACT, Women’s Health PACT Teams and social program initiatives, including women’s social events and women’s recreational activities.

To further ensure the needs of women Veterans continue to be met, Morgan and her staff hold quarterly town hall meetings, focus groups and one-on-one meetings where they ask women what they would like to see added or improved with female Veterans’ health care.

“The more we know, the more we grow,” said Cain.

As of Oct. 2022, 231,147 women made up around 18% of VA’s work force, and all jobs have opened to them in recent years. About 33% of DOD civilians are women.

Battle Creek VA serves 44,908 Veterans from across 21 counties in Michigan. In 2023, the medical center and its clinic locations provided health services to 4,759 women. Learn more about Women Veteran’s Care at Battle Creek VA here.

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