Martin C. Evans

Posts Tagged ‘women veterans’

VA Hopes Child Care Will Address Female Vets

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm

The military has 73,000 single parents. Child care is an issue for returning veterans, including increasing numbers of women.

The Veterans Administration will take a step this fall toward filling a need expressed by female vets when it begins offering child care for outpatient visitors at its medical care facility in Northport.

Northport was one of three medical centers chosen by Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki for a pilot program offering free child care while veterans are being treated. Pilot programs will also open in Buffalo, N.Y. and Tacoma, Washington.

Women’s advocates had been especially vocal about adding day care, saying its absence has made VA facilities seem particularly unwelcome to female veterans.

Giustina Penna, 32, an Iraq War veteran from Bay Shore, said she stopped attending psychotherapy sessions at Northport about two years ago in part because she had difficulty arranging for care for an infant son.

“There are a lot of people who can’t take care of themselves because they can’t find anyone to take care of their kids,” said Penna. “And it’s hard to take care of your family when you can’t take care of yourself.”

“I’m very pleased to hear that it is going to go through,” Penna said.

Although Northport has operated a child care center since 1986, the 40-place facility is for the children of its employees.

Penna said she sought psychotherapy treatment at Northport after a 2005 deployment as a truck driver in Iraq left her battling depression and substance abuse. She said she was haunted by having witnessed the death of a child, and that the smell of rotting corpses there had been a frequent reminder of the danger that surrounded her.

“For the next year, I was on a suicide mission,” Penna said.

She said for many parents, the availability of day care will spell the difference between getting regular treatment and doing without.

Central Islip native Sgt. Tito Collazo, who gets treatment for back and shoulder injuries at Northport, said he also plans to make use of the planned day care center.

He said being able to bring his daughter Kaitlyn, 3, will mean he will spend less time worrying about making child-care arrangements, and focus more on his treatments.

“It will relieve so much pressure of finding someone I’m comfortable leaving my daughter with,” said Collazo, 32. “I do have more of a sense of trust with the VA and military organizations.”

With some 73,000 single parents currently serving in the active duty military, child care is expected to be an increasingly urgent need for new veterans seeking health services.

But women remain significantly less likely than men to use VA health facilities, even as the percentage of women in the military continues to grow, according to Patricia Hayes, Chief Consultant of the VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group.

Many female veterans say VA facilities remain uninviting to women, and remind them of a male-oriented military culture that left large numbers of them scarred by sexual abuse or other emotional traumas.

In addition to child care, women’s advocates have called for extended clinic hours to accommodate single mothers, separate entrances and waiting areas, escorts to help female veterans feel safe, more female-only ptsd counseling programs, and greater resources to address women who were the victims of sexual assault while in the military.

“A coed environment can truly be the worst thing for a woman suffering from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and PTSD,” Tia Christopher, of the Swords to Plowshares veterans advocacy group, told a Senate hearing in 2009.

In recent years, VA has developed women’s primary care programs at their health care facilities across the nation, and has hired program managers and coordinators to manage care for women veterans

“We hope that by offering safe, secure child care while the Veteran attends a doctor’s appointment or therapy session, we will enable more women Veterans to take advantage of the VA benefits to which they are entitled,” Hayes said in a release.

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Unemployment higher among recent vets

In veterans on February 6, 2010 at 12:22 am

Bad news if you joined the military to get job skills: Unemployment has hit recent vets even harder than it has regular civilians, according to the most recent U.S. Labor Department data .

Although the jobless rate for all Americans edged down to 9.7 percent last month, it was at 12.6 percent for vets who have served since 2001.

Ex-Marine Mike Carrol, 29, and his family were homeless for almost a year until the Manhattan resident got help from a non-profit veterans agency. (Photo: NY Daily News)

The higher-than-average jobless rate for recent vets may be a reflection of the difficulty facing younger job seekers in general. The jobless rate for Americans 20-24 is an above-average 15.8 percent.

Still, that may be little consolation to military recruits who were lured by recruiters’ promises of high-paying job skills, but who now stand in line at unemployment offices.

The jobs picture was particularly bad for women who served post-9/11. Their unemployment rate hit 14.2 percent in January, up from 10.9 percent a year earlier. For men, January’s unemployment rate rose from 8.9 percent last year to 12.6 percent now.

Analysts say military service may make it more difficult for veterans to find work once they return to the civilian world.

They say employers may be wary of hiring personnel who may eventually display antisocial behaviors linked to post traumatic stress disorder. Vets may be hurt by spending years away civilian job networking. And soldiers accustomed to military routine have often chafed in workplace environments where civilian employees seem undisciplined and self-absorbed.

“Pregnant? Drop and gimmie twenty!”

In Women on December 25, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Maj. Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo III says soldiers who become pregnant or get another soldier pregnant harm unit cohesion

“Soldier, you will not become pregnant! IS THAT CLEAR!”

In so many words, that was a direct order issued last month to his troops by Major Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo III, who commands soldiers in northern Iraq.

Cucolo, reviving questions over what role women should play in the U.S. military, ordered that female soldiers who became pregnant, and male soldiers who helped get them there, could be subject court martial and jail time.

But Cucolo’s directive was overturned this week by Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, after Cucolo’s directive drew sharp criticism from female advocates. Odierno  drafted new policy that will go into effect Jan. 1, which made no mention of pregnancy.

Cucolo, who commands the Multinational Division North, in Iraq, had said the prohibition against pregnancy was essential to protect combat units from losing soldiers during deployments. Because Defense Department rules prevent pregnant soldiers from serving in a combat theater, women known to be pregnant while in Iraq or Afghanistan are required to leave their combat unit and redeploy to their home duty station.

Under Cucolo’s directive, which was first reported by Stars and Stripes, even married couples could have faced discipline for conceiving a child.

“I believe there should be professional consequences for making a choice like that,” Cucolo said before his order was overturned, according to the Armed Forces Press Service.

His directive exposes a longstanding tension over what role if any women should have in the military. While some say women play an invaluable role in today’s modern military, others say maintaining discipline and operational readiness in a poly-gender military is problematic.

But Cucolo’s order last month incurred the wrath of several women’s groups, including the National Organization of Women. Four women in the U.S. Senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, wrote to the general asking him to rescind the order.

“We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished simply for conceiving a child,” the senators wrote.

Women vets don’t get same welcome home

In Uncategorized, Women on December 15, 2009 at 12:16 am

Female GIs at Baghram Airbase, near the deadly Pakistan border. All of them are carrying rifles.

Women soldiers who return from combat aren’t treated with the same honor and respect as men are, even though women  serve as turret gunners, convoy drivers and other shot-at positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That has left many women returning from war zones feeling rejected and depressed once their battlefield service is up, according to an Associated Press article.

“People didn’t come up to us and thank us for our service in the same way,” Sgt. Kayla Williams, 34,  told the Associated Press.  “They didn’t give us free beers in bars in the same way when we first got back.”

Joanne Lombardi, of Miller Place, a volunteer who helps wounded veterans, said women soldiers are often overlooked because combat traditionally has been associated with men.

“I’ve made the same mistake myself,” Lombardi said. “You see a woman in a restaurant with a group of soldiers and assume she is a wife or a girlfriend — not a soldier herself.”

Some female veterans say even male colleagues with whom they built strong soldier-to-soldier relationships while deployed shun them once they come home, often because spouses or girlfriends are suspicious of their professional closeness.

Isolation from colleagues  leaves war veterans more vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxieties, say psychological social workers at the Rosen Family Wellness Center, a treatment center for returning soldiers.  Lack of recognition also denies female veterans the social networks men enjoy, making it harder for them to find jobs and transition back to civilian life.

Many female vets have said they have come to doubt the value of their own service, and have not sought veterans services as frequently as men.

“What worries me is that women themselves still don’t see themselves as veterans, so they don’t get the care they need for post-traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic brain injury or even sexual assault, which obviously is more unique to women,” said Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee. “So we still have a long way to go.”

More than 185,000 women have been deployed since the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to a Dec. 5 resolution in Congress honoring women in the military. In all, 350,000 women currently are serving in the military.