BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Joining Forces for Women Veterans’

BPW/NC Provides Grants to Women Veterans

Posted by YWM on July 17, 2014

NC grantsIn 2014 BPW/NC launched a grant program to provide funding to women veteran professionals or business owners in North Carolina to be used for training, startup capital or business related expenses. During BPW/NC’s recent convention, $500 grants were awarded to MSgt Barbara J. Bozeman, USAF (Ret.) and Tina Smith, USA (E-4 Specialist).

Ms. Bozeman joined the Air Force because she knew she wanted a career and ended up staying for over twenty years. The most important lesson she learned in the military was that regardless of the circumstances, she was never alone, and that she was responsible to and responsible for everyone with whom she served. This gave her both a great sense of freedom to grow as an individual and as a leader. She plans to use the Women Veteran Grant to create a more professional display for her photography business, Sights and Hounds Photography.

When Ms. Smith was in the 9th grade she knew she wanted to be a soldier and enrolled in the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps program. She has gone on to obtain a Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Service and a Master’s of Science of in Organizational Management Leadership. Her career goal has always been to use her degrees to help others out. She plans to use the Women Veteran Grant to help boost her business, Germacide Cleaning Solutions.


Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Small Business, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

On Veterans Day and Everyday Serving Women Who Have Served

Posted by sherrysaunders on November 11, 2013

BPW mentoring logo.cToday Veterans Day, 2013, Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation and the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls (CCSWG) announced the launch of their partnered California-Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® program, to support the state’s growing population of women veterans, military/veteran spouses, and caregivers of wounded warriors, who face challenges identifying and succeeding in civilian careers. Building on the free high tech-high touch national Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® (JFMP) platform, California-Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® will facilitate mentoring connections and provide tailored career development and employment resources for California’s significant audience of women who have served our country.

In a letter announcing the program, Geena Davis, Chair, California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, emphasized the key role mentorship plays. “The importance of the person-to-person relationship and the ability to talk to someone about the special needs veterans have in transition is critical. This program provides the connection between people who have ‘been there’ and understand the civilian world and veterans, by providing both mentors and mentees with resources.”

Today’s announcement was made at the California State Military Museum. Speaking at the ceremony BPW Foundation Board Chair and JFMP mentor Roslyn Ridgeway said, “We applaud the California Commission on Women and Girls for their vision in identifying the value in California-Joining Forces Mentoring Plus®, and for coordinating this state-level effort to support the career transitions of women who have so honorably served our country and are now struggling to find civilian careers. We hope California will serve as a template for other states that share CCSWG’s commitment to women veterans, military/veteran spouses, and caregivers of wounded warriors.”

Colonel Rich Morales, Executive Director, White House Joining Forces Initiative, sent congratulations from the White House.  “On behalf of the First Lady and Dr. Biden, Joining Forces applauds the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation and the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls on the launch of the state-wide California-Joining Forces Mentoring Plus Portal. Joining Forces is inspired by this strong commitment to support our nation’s women veterans and military spouses. All over the country, organizations like BPW Foundation and CCSWG are stepping up to serve our veterans and military families the same way they’ve served our country. Our service women lead in complex environments, build teams, and are natural managers of people and resources to get things done. Supporting these women in their future careers benefits not only these individuals, but our Country as a whole.”

Also attending the press conference and ceremony were First Vice Chair of the Executive Committee of the CCSWG Commission, Lupita Cortez Alcala of Sacramento and BPW Foundation CEO Deborah L. Frett.

In addition to launching California-Joining Forces Mentoring Plus®, BPW Foundation is participating in a broad range of Veteran’s Day activities throughout the month focused on women veterans, military/veteran spouses, and wounded warrior caregivers, including company events at Citi, Dell, Booz Allen Hamilton (all Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® partners), Microsoft, and Oracle. A Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® mentor and mentee will also share their experiences at a Capitol Hill briefing on “Women Veterans Staying Connected After Military Service.”


Posted in Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – Acknowledging Homeless Women Veterans

Posted by danielleac on January 2, 2012

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

Acknowledging Homeless Women Veterans

by Debbie Metcalf (as printed in the Asheville Citizen-Times)


The horrible situation of being homeless — not having a place to call your own, to lay down in your own bed, make coffee in your own kitchen, and play with your kids in your own den — is made worse if you’re a homeless female veteran, by feelings of embarrassment for being in that situation and anger for having faithfully served our country and still not have a home when you get out.

They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying goals for their lives and differing ideas on how to best attain them. Some of these women are mothers with dependent children to care for. Some are going to school to further their education and increase their work skills. Some of these women are victims of sexual harassment and abuse while serving in the military. Some are addicts and alcoholics. Some are religious and some are not. Some are gay and some are straight. Their lives are as varied as ours.

But their life experiences are very different from ours in that they are experiencing a form of betrayal that most of us have never known. They came home from service in the military to a society that seems to ignore the fact that women have played a vital role in the U.S. armed services for many decades. And contrary to popular thought, women have always been exposed to and participated in very dangerous situations in the military. These women have been injured and experienced loss and sadness while working to serve their country, just as the male veterans. Now, they are homeless.

Asheville is a great area to live and work. We have so many philanthropic organizations that assist people in need. I’m a proud native of Asheville. There are nonprofits dedicated to protecting our rivers, mountains, downtown, greenways, animals, civil rights, air. We have nonprofits to protect handicapped persons and victims of domestic violence, rape, PTSD, child abuse, hate crimes. We also have nonprofits that offer assistance to homeless individuals. The problem in Asheville is that homeless male veterans have a specific place to call their own, whereas homeless female veterans do not have such a facility. The federal government has extended grants to nonprofits to assist homeless veterans in our area. The males have the Veterans Restoration Center at Oteen that houses only male veterans. The women, however, are allocated only 10 beds at the Steadfast House, a homeless shelter that houses all homeless women. Many homeless female veterans are discouraged to accept this housing because of the stringent interviewing process that many feel discriminates against them. These female veterans are also many times left out of the loop about veteran issues and programs available to assist women to achieve their goals in becoming self-sufficient. The homeless female veterans in our area need a transitional facility that serves only veterans and provides information related to their veteran status. It’s only fair.

Homeless female veterans have unique experiences and needs from the general homeless female population. We are committed to doing what we can to bring greater equality for these women. They deserve a group working for them, since they are being short-changed by the existing organizations that are funded to assist homeless vets. It’s the age-old problem of sexism in our society. Women who have served in the military are victims of a patriarchal culture that devalues their worth, minimizing their involvement in the service of our country. We need to stand up for these voiceless women who are living at the mercies of a patriarchal organization and get them some real help; the kind of help that will get them out of their current situation and into a place of their own. They have much to offer society. But first we need to offer them a hand-up so they can get their lives back in order.These women need clothes to wear to job interviews. They need transportation to appointments and sometimes assistance completing applications for housing, food assistance, school, employment. They need a safe and comfortable place to sleep at night, until they can get a permanent place of their own. We are working to make that happen.

For more information on the effort to end homelessness among the women veteran population in Asheville, contact Debbie at mzdjm@live.com


Posted in Families, Homelessness, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – From One Woman Veteran to Another

Posted by danielleac on December 19, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

Introduction: Years ago, BPW Foundation realized that newly-minted women veterans were faltering, missing crucial steps during the transition process from military service to civilian life. Research into the topic uncovered the startling fact that the transition process was not a linear process, nor did it follow a specific timeline. In an effort to be proactive in addressing these stumbling blocks, BPW Foundation developed the Dear Jane campaign, a collection of letters from women veterans back to active-duty women who were getting ready to leave the military. Although the active campaign is over, we still collect these insights and publish as visibly as possible in order to continue connecting the dots. Below is the latest submission.

Welcome Home!

by Lisa DeBerardinis

Dear Jane,

I am a Proud United States Navy Veteran – Seabee, I served from 1981-1988.

I salute you, The New Greatest Generation, and members of the best armed forces in the world!

There are many things I would have done differently after leaving the Navy.

I wish that I wouldn’t have kept a “gotta be tough” attitude for so long. I wandered through this civilian world from that time until about two years ago, when I’d finally had enough and reached out to VA for help. So being “tough” means advocating for yourself.

Like many of you might, I returned home and found myself a single parent, I struggled with depression which was recently found to be a result of MST. I’ve experienced periods of homelessness, although I am blessed that my periods of homelessness meant staying with this friend or that, traveling from here to there hoping things would change.

This letter does not specifically address how to deal with every issue that we face, there are too many! I finally have found my niche (it only took 23 years! 🙂 serving the people I care about most, my fellow Veterans, especially my Sisters.

My advice is too please not wait to seek any assistance or help that you need! Advocate for yourself. Should you have any questions, need assistance/guidance on how to utilize the VA, and what we have available, PLEASE DON’T HESITATE to contact me! Sometimes, unfortunately, the VA can be baffling and frustrating but I will try to answer your questions or at least know where to direct you to get what you need. Our system is Nationwide, so it’s not a problem wherever you are. I hope to hear from you. I have all the respect you.

And can’t wait to say WELCOME HOME!


Lisa DeBerardinis

Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist

Compensated Work Therapy TVHA- York Campus


Ph: 615-225-3926/615-427-5215

Posted in Advocacy, Friendship, Homelessness, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – A Challenging Decision: Entering a Military Academy

Posted by danielleac on November 7, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

This week’s blog brought to us by Liz Mclean, an Air Force Academy graduate from a small town who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years, both stateside and abroad.

A Challenging Decision:  Entering a Military Academy

While in high-school, the unwavering goal to enter a military academy, to break away from a broken home or home town mentality meant having to be “well-rounded.” You need not just excel academically, but excel physically, also. You have your bright-eyed young female who graduates high school with a 4.5 GPA, runs circles around everyone else athletically, writes for the local paper, studies abroad in Italy, spearheads charity organizations….and doesn’t have time for the typical boy scene.

But she does it and is accepted to the Air Force Academy where she is asked to enter a whole new world of discipline and must redefine her next set of goals. While she realizes that she has in fact been accepted to college, she can’t help but wonder “What’s my next challenge or goal? Am I doing well enough?…I need more.”

An introduction to a military academy would start with your waist long blonde hair being chopped to a shaggy cut of Zach Morris; your femininity and external identity stripped away. You find yourself surrounded by 1200 driven clones (about 10% of which are women), running to class on marble strips…trying to find a way to stand-out without fashion or accessories.

Your confidence as a woman and a human being are completely broken down, to only be built back-up through the most rigorous challenges. Your definition of self is formulated by your ability to balance a full engineering class load, learn a foreign language, speak in front of varied audiences, excel in every graded physical aspect, discipline yourself to make your quarters and uniform sparkle, be tested on leadership…..and still find a way to be conspicuous. From earning your jump wings in the only existing free-fall program,  to volunteering to be the first wave of cadets to ever deploy…you strive to standout in a positive light.

Through all of this you become more professional, and you forge friendships with the few other women who share your common yet unusual ambition and level headedness. These friends will be part of only a small number of others like you will encounter in life, the type of friends that never seem to slow down, but instead, help push each other to the most extreme dimensions.  

While attending school, you also find the love of your life who sees you for who you truly are; uniform and all. Your relationship is challenged by the rules of the military institution, implemented in part because of the abysmal sexual assault scandal that has unjustly taken the institution by storm. As a woman, you feel more alienated than anything because you have to overcome the stereotype of being easily offended and pay for other peoples’ poor judgment. No doors will be closed when with members of the opposite gender, no sitting on the same horizontal surface and no showing any sign of affection whatsoever. Through all of this, (you and your now fiancée) still find yourselves connecting and consistently on the same page as a GI power-couple.

The academy teaches you to be able to take on nearly any challenge placed in front of you…multi-tasking to the ultimate dimension.  You are transferred from the young Zach Morris high-school graduate to someone who is much more polished and is ready to lead hundreds in any capacity. When graduation comes (and your class has been whittled down to less than 800 from 1200), for the first time in your life you cry tears of joy as you catapult your cap into the sky. You are ready for your next dare in life…and you still wonder at the end of it all “What’s my next challenge or goal to achieve? Am I doing well enough?…I need more.”

Stay tuned for more from Liz McLean……

Read another Liz McLean blog.

Posted in Career Advancement, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – The Quarter-Life Crisis

Posted by danielleac on October 24, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

The Quarter-Life Crisis

(This week’s blog brought to us by Liz Mclean, an Air Force Academy graduate from a small town who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years, both stateside and abroad. She left the service as an O-3.)


The concept of the “mid-life” crisis should hit around actual middle age; this dramatic era of self-doubt where people start agonizing over the imminent passing of their youth.

Stereotyping of course, it is what I like to call the Peg Bundy syndrome:  age 55, suddenly transitioning to leopard print leggings, spiked high heels, big hair and ruby red lipstick in search of an undefined dream or goal.  The result of the crisis may end up as this burning desire to make significant changes in essential aspects of day-to-day life; specifically in career and work-life balance. It becomes this constant yearning to find the next challenge.

But for a military woman, what happens when that mid-life crisis occurs at the younger age of 25? The world had best be ready for the women veterans who are going to be taking the world by storm with their eternal ambition.

Liz on Duty

Picture a disciplined military academy college alumnus with an additional graduate degree, who has served stateside and/or overseas in a leadership role in a time of a war. Picture a woman who has tackled any logistical nightmare placed in front of her, impacted lives across varying spectrums, traveled the world for business or pleasure, exhausted her own humanitarian efforts, is financially secure, wears camouflage with her hair neatly in a bun and a tube of lipstick in her back pocket, likely found a significant other (who depending on the female, may or may not have been able to keep up with her), pushed the limits of nearly every physically demanding event… and still has this burning void in life with this undefined definition to “succeed.”

The question starts becoming, what’s next? What do you do when you still have self-doubt because you don’t want to sit back and just relax…but want to continually make a difference on the quest to break away from mediocrity? For me, I am hoping the answer ends up as I join the civilian world where I have to continually prove myself with intellect….while signing up for an Ironman in Texas to prove myself physically. For some of my closest military friends, the answer has been to venture towards medical school as a second career, go back to become a pilot after already serving 5 years as a Maintenance Officer leading hundreds, teach English to Japanese forces, or start her own non-profit organization.

People may squabble over the concept of twenty-something year olds feeling like they have a lack of meaningful goals in their lives: we know we are still considered ‘young’ and have our whole lives ahead of us. The fact of the matter is, when you have accomplished as much as these women in the military have in such a short period of time, there is a feeling of not knowing where to find that next challenge so we don’t look back at age 55 and say “I wish I had accomplished what I wanted when I was younger. “

At the end of the day, these ladies simply wonder, “What’s my next challenge or goal to achieve? Am I doing well enough? I need more.”  

                     Stay tuned for more from the life of Liz McLean….

Posted in Gen Y, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – HomeLESS to HomeOWNER!

Posted by danielleac on September 12, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org

From HomeLESS to HomeOWNER! (Part one of a two-part series: Jessica Campbell’s  story)

Life in a Nutshell -The Road to Homelessness

In 2002, at the age of 21, I made the decision to quit wandering around the small Arkansas town I’m from and to make something of myself. I chose to enlist  in the Army. I spent several months in  basic and advanced training in the field of Communications, learning how to be a Networking Systems Switching Operator or, in layman’s terms, to set up networks for phone and internet access. I learned how to use large computers mobilized on HMMWVs to perform system and network operations in the field, including development of user databases and ongoing preventative maintenance and troubleshooting. I was also awarded a Secret clearance. Once this training concluded, I was shipped to my permanent duty station in Georgia…. only to be shipped off to war six weeks later.

I spent 10 months serving in Kuwait and Iraq attached to a Large Extension Network team, a moving convoy of HMMWVs responsible for providing communications for the front line. We had no protection, no combat unit providing cover during our missions following the moving operations around the country while Baghdad was being bombed. We unexpectedly took fire during a one-day mission, barely avoiding injury and knowing we were sitting ducks.

Living in the line of fire day after day creates a stressful, constant paranoia, although it is required to stay alive, there is a cumulative mental and physical toll.

When I came home I was a different person. I couldn’t feel, couldn’t think, couldn’t function the way I used to. I seemed to be in a state of shock, and began self-medicating with alcohol to deal with the insomnia. This led to trouble in my military life – I had a hard time making morning formations after being up all night, unable to sleep. My coping mechanism, alcohol, earned me a DUI and the embarrassment and shame that goes along with it…with family, friends, and my own self image.  When my unit was issued orders for deployment again, I didn’t go—I decided to accept a general discharge instead of going overseas. I couldn’t do it again.

Once released from active duty, I didn’t have anywhere to go.  There wasn’t any transition help available—for a job or anything. I ended up approaching the VA hospital in Florida for help with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms I had. They dealt with me in a dismissive manner – prescribed medication and sent me on my way.  I wasn’t mentally equipped to deal with everyday life at that point, my part-time job at Home Depot involved dealing with customers, and I really couldn’t handle the “in-your-face” attitude many of the civilians I was working with had.  After bouncing around from friend-to-friend’s homes aimlessly for a couple of years, I finally exhausted my resources and had to admit that I was homeless.

Now in South Carolina, I again approached the VA for assistance. They gave me a list of local shelters. I approached several of the shelters, but was denied entry because I wasn’t broken enough.

I didn’t come from prison. I didn’t suffer from alcoholism. I hadn’t been battered physically. I didn’t have children. I didn’t meet any of the criteria needed to receive their help. Thank goodness the last shelter on the list, Angel’s House, had space for me. After spending two months there and completing a job training program with the local non-profit, Fast Forward Community Technology Center, I saved up enough money to strike out on my own. I also secured a full-time job with a company offering medical benefits, 401K benefits with full vesting, and vacation time.

I still can’t afford a lot of luxuries, like internet and cable, but I am on my own two feet and getting better every day.

From Left to Right: Dee of Fast Forward, Jessie, and Bobbie of Angel House. Thanks to the helping hand extended by both of these fantastic women and the non-profits they run, Jessie was able to get back on her feet.

It took four years. Four years for me to go from active duty and traumatized to satisfactory civilian employment and independent living.  If I could influence the transition process for any service member returning to civilian life, it would be to have more access to information about programs and services that are available to veterans, best and worst case scenarios.

I wasn’t prepared when I left active duty, and I don’t think anyone should leave the service without going through transition or re-entry services.

(Stay tuned for Part II: What a Difference a Year Makes!)

As told to and edited by Danielle Corazza

Posted in Combat, Gen Y, Homelessness, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Non Traditional Jobs, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out

Posted by danielleac on June 6, 2011

Read the latest installment of our every-other-week Joining Forces feature that will bring us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

Female Warrior:  a review of Theater-of-War: Ajax

“Theater of War presents readings of Sophocles’ Ajax to military communities across the United States. This ancient play timelessly and universally depicts the psychological and physical wounds inflicted upon warriors by war, and reads like a textbook description of a wounded warrior, struggling under the weight of psychological and physical injuries to maintain dignity, identity, and honor.”  Here is a brief summary of the story of Ajax.

Given the rising number of women veterans, Theater-of-War has substituted a woman in the lead role of Ajax for this version of the play.  I attended the performance at the Women in Military Service for America’s Memorial last night.

I entered the auditorium a bit unsure of what I was going to encounter. I’m not exactly a Greek mythology expert, and, to be honest, I rarely spend time experiencing live theater events, so I was unprepared for the intense emotion evoked by the five actors and actresses as they read the 2,500 year-old play aloud onstage chronicling the fate of the warrior Ajax after the events of the Iliad, but before the end of the Trojan War. The audience, comprised of folks from all walks of life, active duty, military family member, veteran, and civilians, sat in rapt silence during the hour long performance. When the play was closed, the applause was tremendous, and the actors received a standing ovation as they exited the stage.

Then the facilitator explained that the second portion of the evening would consist of a town hall-style event, and introduced an all-female panel consisting of an active duty person with deployment experience, a veteran, a family member, and a military mental health professional.  Each briefly shared their backgrounds – the family member was actually a teenage girl who was the daughter of the panel member who had been deployed, and her tearful explanation of the feelings during her mom’s deployment brought tears to my own eyes. More than once, applause interrupted the speakers as they described their reactions to the reading and the facilitator skillfully posed questions to the audience, eliciting their feedback and drawing out their personal experiences and reactions to the play and its relevance to the situation we are now facing as a nation engaged in a decade long war on two fronts.

Most touching to me, a lifelong member of the military community( as a daughter and a veteran), was a comment from a gentleman in the audience. He stood and asked how he could help, and what could be done to enlighten the 99 percent of our non military population about what the 1 percent who serve has done for them. His sincerity in posing the question and his admission that he was guilty of being oblivious to the needs of warriors and veterans was genuinely heartfelt.

The personal take away from this performance validated my work with Business and Professional Women’s Foundation on the Joining Forces for Women Veterans initiatives – the world needs to know that women veterans exist. We should  not be invisible, and sometimes we do need help. We must embrace our value and connect with one another to provide the peer-to-peer support that is so vital to our success.  Just as we stood strong united in service, we are similarly stronger standing together on the outside.

As one Vietnam-era veteran on the panel explained: “You may not need help on day one, or even year one. But, you must deal with your experiences at some point, in order to transition to civilian life favorably.”

When the day comes that you are ready to connect, drop us a note, and we will help you take the first step.  dccorazza@bpwfoundation.org

Also read Danielle’s PBS blog “From Ma’am, Yes Ma’am to Mom

Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military Families, multigenerational, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Distressing Research about Suicide Rate Among Women Veterans

Posted by egehl on December 14, 2010

Mental health problems and experiences do not discriminate.  They impact everyone regardless of race, background, age or status. 

However one population in particular is acutely feeling the onset of intense feelings of depression and despair, which is leading to alarmingly high rates of suicide—women veterans.   According to a recent study by Portland State University and Oregon Health and Science University, it found that younger women with military service are three times more likely to kill themselves than their civilian counterparts. 

While it is known that many women veterans experience post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), hypertension and depression, until this study there was not a clear sense of whether these and other symptoms were leading to acts of suicide.  However now there is, and stakeholders invested in the health and well-being of women veterans must be mindful of this latest research and react accordingly so that women veterans have the mental health support they deserve.

The report entitled, “Self-Inflicted Deaths Among Women With U.S. Military Service: A Hidden Epidemic?”, has sparked an important and timely dialogue about mental health problems occurring among female veterans.  This research effort led by the Oregon Universities is the largest study on suicides among female veterans, and is based on information collected from 16 states.   The study examined 5,948 female suicides between 2004 and 2007, and found that women veterans aged 18 to 34 were most at risk

Prior to this study the high number of suicides among male veterans was well known, however until now it was not adequately tracked or documented that female veterans are taking their own lives at a similar rate.  What this research has unfortunately uncovered is that young women who served in the military are three times more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts. 

There are significant factors that can explain these alarming numbers such as women veterans are more likely to experience military sexual assault (MST) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can result in high rates of homelessness, difficulties securing work, and reintegration challenges which in turn only exacerbate the mental health problems.  And compounding the issue even more, women veterans are less likely than men to use Veteran’s Administration (VA) health care services, or self-identify themselves as veterans so mental health professionals may not know to look for symptoms based on their unique experiences.

Another factor contributing to women experiencing higher levels of stress is that their roles in combat have changed.  While the Pentagon bans women from ground combat roles, a shift has happened in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  During these intense conflicts, women have found themselves “manning” machine guns, searching and arresting Iraqi civilians, and driving along IED-ridden roads.  Therefore it shouldn’t be a surprise that women are experiencing the same levels of PTSD and depression as their male counterparts; yet veteran services are not reflective of that and failing to recognize these shifts in responsibilities and expectations which will lead to an increase in female mental trauma. 

The trauma of combat, aggravated by the prevalence of sexual assault, leaves many female veterans at risk for suicide.  For those female veterans that have experienced military sexual assault (MST) they should be able to seek a safe place and opportunity for support that is tailored specifically to what a woman needs for her to heal from this distressing experience.  This is important because incidents of sexual assault within the military are rising.  In March, the Department of Defense issued its annual report on sexual assault, citing an 11 percent increase in reported sexual assaults throughout the past year.  And overall women experience higher rates of military sexual assault while in the service (20-40 percent) than men, and repeated exposure to traumatic stressors will increase the likelihood of PTSD.

It is glaringly evident that the mental health needs of female veterans are increasing and having an overall impact on the health care services provided by government and private clinics.  Mental health services must be better designed with women’s needs in mind and incorporate the unique experiences female veterans have endured during their service. 

However that is not often the case.  Women must face access issues including limited availability of women-specific services, unwelcoming practices that occur at medical centers and clinics, and harmful social beliefs and perceptions about women veterans.  Overall many clinics, including the VA, are not prepared to treat high rates of PTSD among women as a recent study found that the nearest VA site did not offer mental health care for approximately 40 percent of women veterans.  

Across the board mental health continues to be a taboo issue that many people struggle to address appropriately.  However for women veterans the confusion of knowing if there’s a significant problem and how to seek help can be even more paralyzing and cumbersome resulting in fewer women getting the help they need.  This study is an upsetting reminder that there’s a huge need among the women veteran population and should be a wake-up call to veteran stakeholders to pay attention and react in ways that will better address and solve this mental health crisis.

Posted in Families, Health, Homelessness, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mental health, Research, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces for Women Veterans: Family and Community Reintegration

Posted by sherrysaunders on October 28, 2010

Family and Community Reintegration Issue Brief

Throughout American history, women have served our country valiantly in times of peace, war and conflict. For far too long, though, women veterans have been invisible. It wasn’t until the 1980 Census that women were asked if they had served in the U.S. Armed Forces. When finally asked the question, more than 1.2 million women responded “yes.” Every day women in the military proudly serve our country, but when they return home they often do not receive the recognition, benefits and services they have earned.

Women represent 15% of the military and are the fastest growing veteran population. Yet, tools and programs are still largely designed with men in mind and do not necessarily meet the unique needs of women veterans. Gender shapes men and women’s military experience as well as their transition process. Reintegration is a multi-dimensional process. The discussion below explores gender-based constraints to women veterans’ successful reintegration into their families and communities and promising practices for addressing those constraints.

The three constraints highlighted below – social isolation, family tension, and physical, mental, and emotional trauma – are not exhaustive. The three categories are meant to provide a broad overview of the types of reintegration constraints experienced by women. For each constraint several contributing factors are suggested including access barriers, faulty and harmful beliefs and perceptions, and social expectations regarding gender roles and responsibilities. To design effective programs and policies for women veterans, it is imperative that we understand the root causes of the constraints they encounter.


Promising Practices
Examples of organizations that offer promising practices to addressing the unique reintegration challenges experienced by women.

The webcast of the Joining Forces for Women Veterans Inaugural Summit can be viewed online at your convenience.

Posted in Families, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mental health, Misbehavin' Notification, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »