Women are a vital part of the armed forces and the community of veterans. VA's commitment to the needs of women veterans has been longstanding, but has been particularly noteworthy since the early 1980s with the establishment of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. Although the number of women veterans is relatively small compared to that of their male counterparts, the population of women veterans has been growing and is projected to grow further, as well as become older. These demographic facts, coupled with the special needs of women veterans, particularly with respect to health care, drive the need to consider how many women veterans use VA benefits and the characteristics which might be related to the need for and use of benefits such as health status, race, education, income, employment and marital status.

Women veterans are eligible for the same VA benefits as male veterans. Services and benefits for women veterans are gender-specific and include breast and pelvic examinations and other general reproductive healthcare services. Preventive health care provided includes counseling, psychosocial rehabilitation programs, contraceptive services, menopause management, Pap smears and mammography. Referrals are made for services that VA is unable to provide.

VA health care professionals provide counseling and treatment to help women overcome psychological trauma resulting from sexual harassment, post-traumatic stress disorder, and domestic violence or other personal and sexual assault during military service. Care also is provided for any injury, illness or psychological condition resulting from such trauma. To ensure privacy for women veterans, VA medical centers have made structural changes.

Women Veterans Coordinators are available at all VA facilities to assist women veterans seeking treatment and benefits. In 1994, Congress passed legislation authorizing VA to establish a Center for Women Veterans. The center collaborates with other federal departments on issues related to women veterans, develops materials on VA benefits programs and health care services, and conducts outreach to make women veterans aware of these services. In addition, the Center monitors VA briefings, particularly during the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), to ensure active duty women are provided access to benefit information and services available to them as veterans. The website: www.va.gov/womenvet (phone: 202-273-6193) offers women veterans direct access to the Center for Women Veterans where they can express concerns, ask questions and provide feedback about VA benefits and services.