The Department of Veterans affairs has a lot of catching up to do for women vets

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By Joan McCarter

 Women can now serve in all military jobs, combat roles included, which means that more and more veterans are going to be female. Which means that the Department of Veterans Affairs and its medical system have an awful lot of work to do to prepare.By 2043, nearly 17 percent of veterans are likely to be female, and in the first decade of this century, the number of female veterans seeking health care in the VA system increased by 83 percent. Yet, one-third of VA medical facilities still don’t have a gynecologist on staff and in 2011, only two percent of them provided mammography services. They do not provide obstetrics—prenatal care or deliveries. Women veterans also don’t have the right to access abortion with their insurance. And in the last two years, 20 percent of female veterans reported that they delayed or went without health care.

The lack of health services for female veterans is partly due to low patient numbers, according to Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain who formerly worked on the VA secretary’s advisory committee for women veterans. The veteran population is still about 90 percent male. Some VA facilities don’t have enough female patients to get federal certification for mammography services, so women are referred elsewhere. In other cases, facilities only have part-time gynecologists who visit a few times a week, or they refer women to gynecology services through community care providers.

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