department of veterans affairs, Jonathan Kaupanger, veterans affairs, VA healthcare, women veterans, center for women veterans

Hey women vets! Wanna learn about benefits and laugh too?

gettyimages 489572540 Hey women vets!  Wanna learn about benefits and laugh too?

Army veteran Sue Williams (C) of Lexington, Kentucky, a participant of the first-ever all female Honor Flight, litsens to Taps during a visit at the Women in Military Service Memorial September 22, 2015 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

What do four comics, a focus group on transitioning to civilian life and information about military sexual trauma have in common? The 2017 National Women Veterans Summit, and it’s been six years since Veterans Affairs last held a national-level event like this for women veterans.

Giving women information about VA’s benefits and services, particularly those designed specifically for women is the main purpose of the conference, according to event host and director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans, Kayla M. Williams. The August 25 – 26 summit will be in Houston, Texas this year- the first time outside of Washington, DC.

“It’s really bringing together key stakeholders from across a variety of enterprises to talk about the challenges women veterans are facing, the opportunities available to them, the best way that all of us can support women veterans and also highlight the strengths of women veterans themselves,” said Williams.

summit Hey women vets!  Wanna learn about benefits and laugh too?

2017 National Women Veterans Summit. Aug. 25 – 26 in Houston, TX. (VA Graphic)

At events like this, Ms. Williams said there is this tendency sometimes to completely focus exclusively on the challenges women veterans face. While this is very important, she also wants to look at things women vets do really well.  “We’re more likely to graduate, more likely to have college degrees than male veterans or civilian women,” she said.  “We’re more likely to work in management or professional occupations so in some ways we’re doing very, very well, there’s strong interest in entrepreneurship so this is a great opportunity to highlight those strengths as well as identifying ways to address challenges.”

The summit will cover topics including understanding women veterans’ experiences with VA healthcare, understanding employment and legal issues, military sexual trauma, community veterans engagement boards, information from the National Cemetery Administration and planning for the future.

Thursday evening, the night before the summit kicks off, there’ll be a screening of “Journey to Normal,” a documentary that tells the story of women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The film explores the psychological and social dynamics of their service and also follows their reintegration to civilian life.

Women veteran stand-up comics are featured at the Friday evening reception. These women are graduates of the veteran’s only stand-up comedy class, “Comedy Bootcamp.”  “I’m really excited about these two ways to really delve into the humanity and explore the women veterans experience in a different way than just looking at statistics can ever do for us,” said Williams.

Also on Friday, a claims clinic is provided by the Veterans Benefits Administration to help with claims assistance and information. The clinic is by appointment only from 10a – 2p.  To schedule an appointment, you can send your request to womenveterans.vbavaco@va.gov, but be sure to include your full name, branch of service, mailing address, contact phone number, email address and the type of assistance requested.  Please note:  Rating decisions will not be completed at this claims clinic.

You can register or just find out more information about the 2017 National Women Veterans Summit here.

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