A group of women veterans gathered for the Women Serving Women luncheon on March 30 at The American Legion’s Washington office to celebrate the service and sacrifice of women in America’s armed forces, and to discuss key issues that affect women while on active duty and after they have returned to civilian life.
Terrie Fuller, assistant director for women veterans outreach in the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Division, addressed the group. She noted that, out of 1.9 women veterans in the country, less than 500,000 are receiving health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). And that one in three women returning from deployments test positive for military sexual trauma (MST).
"When we realize how widespread MST is in the military, we start to think more about how our leadership determines what MST is, and what types of programs and processes they put in place to make sure this type of sexual harassment doesn’t take place," Fuller said. "And I’m not just talking about the military. I’m talking about the veterans facilities that cater to us as well. In fact, a large part of (MST) happens at VA facilities."
Last week, Fuller attended a meeting of VA’s Advisory Commission on Women Veterans where information was shared about health-care programs for women. "A lot of the commission’s recommendations were directed toward medical care, making sure that we take care of ourselves," Fuller said. "Statistics show that the average women veteran takes about two years before she realizes that she needs some help, particularly for those with PTS (post-traumatic stress)."
Rina Shah, a retired Army captain, also spoke to the group. She served as an attorney with the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency, working on cases involving government contracts and procurement fraud. She negotiated settlements and devised litigation strategies to protect the financial interest of the Army, and represented the Army in complex, multi-million dollar litigation before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals and also the Government Accountability Office.
On July 28, 2011, Shah retired from the Army because of injuries sustained in a combat zone.
Verna Jones, director of the VA&R Division, commended Shah as an example of "how women make a strong contribution during their military service, and how their service sometimes takes them into harm’s way. We can’t forget the sacrifices they make in uniform, and that is why we’re holding this event for them today."
Jones said that Fuller’s position was specifically created to strengthen the Legion’s outreach efforts for women veterans. Last year, the Legion conducted an online survey of more than 3,000 women veterans, gauging their experiences and opinions about VA and private-sector health care. Review the women veterans survey here.