VA is working to improve privacy concerns for women veterans

Jonathan Kaupanger
March 13, 2018 - 10:47 am

Photo by KRT

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Women make up the fastest growing population in the military. Still, less than nine percent of the 1.8 million women veterans use VA services. And while the VA doesn’t have specific benefits or healthcare that’s just for women, it does have ways to deliver care and benefits specifically for women veterans.

If you’re looking for information, the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) should be your first stop.  “Find out how to get enrolled in care, find out what benefits you may be eligible for and that would help with your financial stability to go onto school or get a VA backed home loan,” said Kayla M. Williams, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “If you have a service connected disability, you can find out how to apply.  Find out about the healthcare that we have available. And know that we are trying to make it more accessible."

When you call the WVCC at 855.VA.WOMEN, you’ll be connected to a women, more than likely a women veteran, who can give you information like what benefits you’ve earned to how you can get your Veteran ID card.

The Women Veterans Call Center is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. through 10 p.m. ET. On Saturdays, you can call anytime between 8:00am and 6:30 pm ET.  If you prefer to talk to someone online, you can chat with the Women Veterans Call Center here

Unlike other call centers, this one doesn’t necessarily wait for you to call it, “They do outbound calls as well as taking incoming calls,” said Williams.  “And the Women Veterans Call Center is staffed exclusively by women and will help women vets navigate through all their resources that we have available to serve them.”

The WVCC was created as a way to get information out to women veterans, and is designed to work for you. If the time they call isn’t a good one, you can reschedule at your convenience.  After the call, you’ll get a package of information sent to your home, giving you personalized information on VA healthcare services and benefits. 

Another service provided by the WVCC is direct referrals to a Women Veteran Program Manager (WVPM).  Every VA medical center has a WVPM and it’s their full-time job to coordinate services specifically for women veterans. Services that WVPM’s can help you with include primary, pregnancy and psychiatric care, inpatient services and they can even help you access programs for homeless women veterans.

“There are still VA facilities where we are not where we want to be with privacy and environment of care,” said Williams.  “I get all my care at the DC VA Medical Center and it’s been fantastic. There’s a women’s clinic and it’s very comfortable.  It’s very comfortable, it’s a beautiful spa-like environment in the waiting room. Everything about it is great.  But I will be honest, not every facility is like that.  GAO has issued reports where they’ve found some deficiencies, we’re working very hard to address those.”

The issues Ms. Williams is referring to are all privacy related. In 2014 7.9% of the VA’s Community Based Outpatient Clinics evaluated didn’t have manual or electronic locks for the examination rooms used by women veterans.  17.2% of the CBOCs were also laid out in a way where women, who were gowned for an examination, would have to enter public areas to use a gender-specific restroom. Only one of the CBOCs inspected had examination tables positioned in a way that didn’t facilitate privacy.

In 2015, privacy concerns for women for the most part was better. The door lock number went down to 5.4%, the gender-specific restroom issue dropped to 7.1% but the examination table positioning problem grew to two CBOCs. 

“We continue to drive forward and making progress on resolving any identified privacy or environment of care concerns,” said Williams. “It is an important focus of the department and we do continue to make progress on that front.”