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Why Air Force Veteran Lyndsey Leffel chooses VA care

Women Veterans are the fastest growing group using VA services, and VA is expanding care to better serve their needs, from primary care to specialized care, including mental health, chronic conditions and reproductive health.

While women have served in the military since the American Revolution, around 75% of active-duty service members are men. But as more women serve across all military branches and divisions, VA is evolving its care to meet women’s needs.

Retired Air Force Captain Lyndsey Leffel has chosen VA health care for over 20 years. “When I first went to VA in 1998, I was seeking help for PTSD after deployment. I didn’t know where else to go and VA helped me.”

No longer just a man’s world

When Leffel began using VA services, she was frequently mistaken for a military spouse or caregiver. “It was a man’s world. I walked into VA and people kept asking where my grandpa was,” she recalled.

From hunting magazines in the waiting rooms to oversized hospital gowns, almost everything in VA medical centers seemed geared toward men.

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, Leffel began to notice new specialty clinics centered on women’s reproductive health, military sexual trauma and mental health. Today, as more women than ever before transition from military service to civilian life, VA is evolving to provide women Veterans the care they need.

When Leffel enters VA today, she is thanked for her service, not asked whose spouse or caregiver she is. She also notes the more diverse selection of reading material in waiting rooms. “Those things might seem small, but they make a big difference,” she said.

Encouraging women to use VA care

Leffel is both a VA patient and a provider. She is currently deployed to Chicago, serving as the National Electronic Health Record Modernization Supplemental Staffing Unit Inpatient nurse manager, supporting the implementation of the Cerner electronic health record.

“I feel I provide an extra service to Veterans who come to the emergency department. Some Veterans don’t understand the programs that may be available to them, like transportation to medical appointments or recreation therapy programs. I’m one of those very pro-VA care people, so I can share with Veterans everything I know,” she said. 

Leffel uses her own positive experience with VA care to encourage other women, like her Navy Veteran mom, to use VA benefits. “Give it a chance. VA has always been there for me. When I get sent out to the community, I feel like a number, a dollar sign. At VA, I don’t,” she said.

VA women’s health over the years

Women have been receiving care at VA since the World War Veterans Act of 1924, which ensured that VA care was extended to more women in more places. Veterans Bureau hospitals and campuses have been accepting women Veteran patients ever since.

Today, every VA has a Women Veteran Program Manager to advise women Veterans and help coordinate the services they may need. Every eligible woman Veteran has access to the VA health system, which provides care at 1,293 health care facilities, including 171 VA medical centers and 1,112 outpatient sites of care.

“Women Veterans belong at VA and we are committed to honoring their service with the gender specific care they have earned and deserve. No matter where they are located, VA is here to serve women Veterans and all Veterans as well as they have served us,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal.

Women’s health resources

Find more information on women’s care at VA.

Listen to “She Wears the Boots,” a VA-sponsored podcast highlighting how VA is a women’s partner in health care.

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